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!

Practical Compassion

Roman 12: 15        NIV

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

It would be interesting to hear from you as to what this sentiment says to you. It probably says more than seen at first glance. It is also probably appropriate for these times, specifically, because of the wide-spread and varied emotions people are experiencing around the globe.  People are facing a wide range of circumstances.  The situations and accompanying emotions can even vary by geographic region. What is our response to these changing situations and the real-life consequences? This is the application of compassion but what is that practical aspect?

When people mourn many times our response is to try to cheer them. This verse suggests that trying to cheer people up isn’t the only, or perhaps, even the best approach. Maybe compassion means meeting people where they are and being with them in their state. It is uncomfortable, for sure. We like to be around people who are happy and smile a lot. This verse suggests a level of empathy that many of us may potentially find discomforting. It is quite easy to rejoice when others rejoice but mourning with those who mourn is challenging.

Empathy means that we can share the feelings of others. We don’t have to coach them, teach them or try to change their emotions. We only need to be in their space with them. It validates their emotions. We are quick to try to change people but Jesus is asking us to just be with them where they are and show them his compassion. We just let our hearts be tender and give comfort.

Send me your thoughts. What does this look like in real world practice?

Building the Temple

1 Chronicles 29: 9

Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

God has made us to be givers. We are in His image and He is the greatest giver of all time. One of the things that hangs us up, though, is that our offerings go to people. Truthfully, we do not always trust people and sometimes in our hearts we do not wish to bless people. If we could give right into God’s hands, we would joyfully give. We probably couldn’t give enough to satisfy the desire to bless the Lord.

In today’s story, David was at the end of his life and thus, his term as the king and leader of Israel. His son, Solomon, would be tasked with building the temple to the Lord. David, though, gave gold, silver, brass, etc. towards the building of the temple. He even gave gold so the walls could be covered in gold. It was in his heart to bless, the Lord, his God. As the people listened to his words and observed his example, they also dug deep into their resources and gave more gold, and other metals. It was a joy and a delight to these people to give to their God and they gave with a whole heart. I would like to go back in time and witness their joy.

We have a number of cultural issues which impede our giving. First, there is that keeping up with the Jones’ thing. If we give and give, then others will have more than we. What if we give so much directly to our pastors that their prosperity begins to eclipse our own? We seem to have a mentality which requires pastors to be broke. This is a thought pattern which strains my brain because it seems to me that in the world of logic, especially in Kingdom dynamics, those who serve God (including you) should be the most prosperous on earth. I don’t know where we got this poverty mentality, the Puritans perhaps, but it defies logic for me. Surely, you have noticed how wealthy preachers are criticized. I do know of some churches, though, who seem to consider it an insult to themselves if the pastors are not in nice clothes and driving the nicest cars. How would that go over in your church? What are the tapes running in our brains that would never allow that to happen.

Another problem our giving suffers is that we are living in a time when there is so much to spend money on. We can go on nice trips, drive nice cars, buy bigger homes and multiple homes. There is a new electronic gadget out almost every day that attracts our attention. What would the Israelites have done with all that gold anyway? If they did not give it to the temple would that have meant they could take a Caribbean cruise? I think they were not as distracted by a world full of pleasures as we are. I believe that is why we have to purpose in our hearts to be givers. There are many things we can give our money to, is the church the most attractive of these? I doubt it. God, likely is though. If you can get face to face with Him I think we would all want to give Him anything we could.

The Israelites received a revelation of the elation in giving. They gave to God with their whole hearts and rejoiced in the gifts. Maybe in our quiet time with the Lord, he can give us a revelation too showing us how giving will benefit us while it increases our joy. Let’s ask him about that, shall we?

God is . . . joyful in righteousness

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness.

What do you think of when you hear the word unrighteousness? At some level we hear “wrongness” don’t we? Something is not right. One of the definitions of righteousness means essentially that we are in our right place with God. It has to do with where we are in relation to Him. We are righteous in Christ who has placed us in right standing with God. The other use of this word is the one we probably think of more often. It refers to our personal adherence to a code of behavior or laws. When we hear someone is unrighteous we tend to think of them as being wicked. That is going a bit far but certainly one who is wicked is not in their proper place with God and is not following the social mores or laws.

When I hear the word “righteous” I think of Jesus. I have hung my hat on 2 Corinthians 5: 21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Our standing with God is assured. It is not earned. Jesus gave it to us in His sacrifice and it would be repugnant to try to earn it. We are in our right position with God because Jesus bought it with his blood. Of course, our God will not rejoice in our being unrighteous or not in the spot Jesus bought for us. He is not satisfied with us not being in Jesus and standing in the grace Jesus wrought for us. If we do not accept who we are in Christ, the Father cannot rejoice. He can only grieve.

There was an exchange made at that altar of the cross. The sin of the world was laid on the lamb in exchange for the righteousness of God. All of my sin and yours was put on the altar so that we could arise in Christ Jesus in the glory and majesty of His victory and righteousness. Our only task is to intertwine ourselves in the love of Jesus. We put our wrongness on his rightness and his rightness wins every time. The Father is glorified and made joyful when we immerse ourselves in the light of Jesus. He rejoices when we rely upon 2 Corinthians 5: 21 and claim Jesus’ victory bigger than our failures. He is happy when we raise Jesus up above our self-aware shortcomings. We are right in Christ and that is the only way we can ever be righteous. Love rejoices when we abide in love.


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!


1 Chronicles 29: 9

Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

What a beautiful passage of scripture. These people experienced much joy because their hearts were in their giving to the Lord. Did you know that giving offerings to the Lord could fill you with joy? Really, most of us enjoy giving. We just do not like to feel obligated or coerced to give. When we give freely to the Lord with our whole heart, it does make the heart glad. It is a personal giving between the person and the Lord and that sort of giving lifts the heart and countenance. I think some of us are grumpy because we hold on so tightly to our money or gifts. When we let them go freely, we elevate our own spirits. And I know that the Lord is overjoyed when we give to him out of the abundance of our hearts. It doesn’t have to be a big gift, just a joyful one.