When God Ordains Hard Things

We know that bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to bad people. And good things happen to good people. All these happenings are fore-ordained. They’re known ahead of time by God Almighty. He allows all things. All circumstances. All the time.

Matthew 5:45 tells us that our Father in heaven gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. This means that everyone on this earth can plan to have some good days and some bad days. There’s no way around it.

What does it mean that God ordains all things? You ask. What does it mean that he ordains our days?

Ordain: To order or decree by virtue of superior authority. To issue an order. To order or command.

He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts of the Apostles 17:24-28

If you’ve read the story of Job, you know that he lived through one very difficult time. According to the Bible, he had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area. Read Job 1:2-3. The Bible doesn’t say specifically how long his troubles lasted, but in the course of one day he lost everything. Literally. His donkeys and oxen were stolen and some of his farmhands were killed. Only one escaped to tell the story. All of his sheep and shepherds were burned in a fire. Only one shepherd escaped to share the news. All of his camels were stolen by raiders, who killed the servants. Only one servant escaped to give a report. Then a powerful storm blew down the house where his children were partying, where they and all the servants died. Only one servant survived to give an account to their parents.

And just when Job was wallowing in grief, he was hit with boils all over his body. He was miserable. He wanted to die. He asked God why he had even been allowed to be born. And his wife suggested that he curse God and die. But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. Job 2:10


His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him–though he is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:27


How do parents respond when they lose a young child? Because we know that it’s not in the course of natural events for a parent to outlive their child. The heartbreak and disappointment can be crushing. The grief and pain of loss is devastating.

These past two years have brought many deaths and disabilities from a new virus. The pain and suffering have been immense. No population on the earth has been left untouched. How are we to process this event? What does normal even look like anymore? Can we adjust to a new normal that is full of roadblocks?

There are Christians in other lands who are hunted, imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith. They’re living for God, but they’re in the minority in their land. And those hunting them are determined to rid their world of anything godly.

Consider the police officer who accidentally killed someone when she pulled her gun instead of her taser. And then there’s the cop who killed a child when his bullet ricocheted off a wall. These are hard times for these two individuals and their families. And also for the families who lost loved ones. No one is a winner here. The lives of all of these people are changed forever.

Then there are women and girls being trafficked for sex by ungodly people. They’re sold for their bodies to be used against their will. They have no say in the matter. They can’t escape the abuse on their own. They’re held prisoner by unlawful people.

We may wonder why God allows such evil to happen. After all, he is a loving God. Why do bad things happen? We can question God, but he doesn’t always provide the answers we long to hear. We don’t always learn the reason of the whys that we ask. We may never know.

We’ve been given the ability to choose how we live our lives. We can decide to do good or evil. We can chose to treat others with respect or not. We can choose to hurt others and ourselves. We can choose to deny that God exists. We also can choose to walk in step with Him.

If we choose to walk our own path, then our life will reflect those choices and consequences. And we live that life on our own. We live that life without the comfort or strength that only God can give.

If we choose to walk with God, He walks with us through the valleys and mountaintop experiences. He never leaves us. He will give us strength to face each new day, whether that day brings rejoicing or sorrow. Even when days are hard, and there will be hard days, God is with us.

For some, the suffering and struggles may be lifelong. Even if we are Christ followers, we may live hard lives. We aren’t promised an easy, rose colored life.

Oh. We can grovel and complain and moan and groan. We can question God and curse him. We can cry and destroy ourselves. All in the name of suffering. But suppose we stopped and quieted ourselves. Suppose we listened for the still small voice of God. Suppose we reached out to Him at the darkest moments of our lives. And just suppose He brought peace in the midst of suffering. Because it is possible.

Some of the things that you’ve lost in your life, God is not going to bring them back in the exact same way.

Havilah Cunnington

To experience joy in our struggles and difficulties, we must first acknowledge who God is. Everything but God is secondary in our lives. Everything else is secondary. Yes. That’s right. It’s tough to hear, but God must be the priority. Even during times of intense suffering and grief. If we focus on God, we will see that He is supreme. His love is never ending. His compassion knows no boundaries. His mercy is new every morning. His grace is all sufficient. His power is all encompassing. He is the alpha. The omega. The beginning and the end.

So when the thing we have always feared happens to us, we can have peace and quiet and perfect rest in God our Maker and Redeemer.

Temptation Thwarted

What do you do when you’re tempted? How do you fight off temptation? Do you just give in, or do you resist? Temptation is a wily sidekick, you know. Not one you want hanging around. It appears at all hours of the day. Satan comes around in the form of temptation at times when you least expect to see him. And there may be times when you’re not aware that he’s the one doing the enticing. He wants you. And he’ll do whatever it takes to get you on his side.

Oh. Jesus was tempted. He was led into the wilderness, where he was tempted for forty days. Imagine. Forty days of temptation. And never giving in. Jesus did it. He had the ingredient that was essential for refusing to submit to sin. Sure. You can say that he was God and he couldn’t sin. But when he came to earth, he came as a human who suffered every temptation the rest of us have ever faced. And he refused to bow to temptation. Every single time.

It won’t be a red devil with horns looking you in the eye, because he masquerades as an angel of light. So he may appear as a tantalizing new opportunity that promises the world but ends in tragedy. He will make evil look good and good look evil.

Read the story for yourself.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ ” Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Matthew 4:1-11

When he was in the wilderness, Jesus quoted Scripture back to Satan each time his enemy tempted him. And the enemy even quoted Scripture to Jesus. Yes, he did. He quoted Scripture as a method of deception. And Jesus charged right back with the perfect response. Jesus wasn’t afraid of his enemy. He stood up to the one trying to ruin him and said “No.” Jesus didn’t let Satan steal his holiness.


Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes. Psalm 44:5


Satan also used Scripture when he was tempting Jesus, so beware. If he tempted Jesus with Scripture, what are the methods he uses today? His advances may seem innocent. But his plans are to destroy us. We must make sure we know Scripture. How else can we fight against Satan’s advances. When tempted, can you quote the Scripture that you need to resist his advances? If you can’t charge back at Satan with Scripture, what do you use to stand up to him? Just know that when Satan tempts you, he is attempting to deceive you. His temptations may be pretty or fun. But giving in to temptation, which means that you’re giving in to sin, always has consequences.

We must do as Jesus did when Satan tempted him? He quoted Scripture and threw it in the face of his tempter. And that’s exactly what we must do. We must stand up to our enemy. Throw the Book at him. Oh. He’ll try and do the same. He did it to Jesus. Satan can quote the Bible. But he also twists the truth.

How else can we fight the enemy of our souls? If we’re tempted and we don’t know Scripture, what other tools of resistance do we have to demand that Satan stand down? If not Scripture, then what?

It is combat we’re facing. Hand to hand combat. Do we bring the most effective weapons? Or do we just hope for the best? Are we prepared? Or do we get caught off guard with a sucker punch to the gut?
We don’t have to lose when we’re up against Satan. We don’t have to bow to his advances. We must be prepared and know how to fight him. It takes advance preparation and sure-fire tactics to beat him.  If Jesus can resist Satan’s attacks, then we can do the same if we’re filled with the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of God’s Word.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. 1 Peter 5:8-9

Intentions

There will come a day when we will be judged. Oh. We don’t like to think of it. But regardless of what we think, it will happen. The Bible says so. And I have chosen to believe the Bible. It is the standard by which I choose to live. I’m not perfect. But I’m using every ounce of breath to be like Christ. Like I said. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I sometimes have unsavory motives. I sometimes use unkind words. But my goal. My true intention is to please God. When I stand in front of Him on judgment day, I want to be welcomed into heaven with a nice eternal reward.

But here’s the thing. I can do all the good that is possible on this earth. I can say only kind words, even to those I despise. I can smile when I am angry. I can be pleasant to my enemies. I can give all my money to the poor and needy. I can attend church every Sunday. But if my words and actions don’t match my intentions, then all the good I do in the world is meaningless. It’s just that simple.

I can be as good as can be. I can do the right thing at all times. I can act appropriately even in the worst of times. I can try to say the right words in every conversation. But it’s my intentions that are the concern. Because intentions are usually hidden. People can’t see our intentions. Oh. They can assume. But they may just be guessing. But we know whether we plan to do good or evil.

And God always knows our intentions. He sees our heart. He knows our heartbeat. He knows the good, the bad and the ugly of our desires. At the end of our days, we’ll be judged on our entire life. Not just our first day. Or our last. Not just our best day. Or our worst. Every day will be accounted for. Every day will be judged. Some days will stand out like shining stars. Others will fall far short. We will be judged on the nature of our intentions and actions. What was the purpose of those words that were said? What was the intent of the gift that was given? Everything will be taken into account on judgment day.


Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Psalm 44:21


Some people create resolutions in the new year in hopes that they can be better, do better, or live better lives. These resolutions are easily broken and disappointment sets in. But a resolution isn’t enough. Resolutions don’t require or assume obedience. But God requires obedience. Whether our plans are written on our heart or in a notebook, we need God’s help to keep our attitudes and intentions pure. And he will do that. We must listen for his guidance and allow him to lead us. We must allow him to check our intentions and convict us when those motives aren’t pure.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

We’re not perfect. No one ever said we should be. Or have they? Sometimes, our inner voice shouts those words. You’re not good enough. You should have done better. You’re not skinny enough. You’re doing it all wrong. But God does speak correction to us. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He created us in his image, but not as gods. And he created us from dirt. Dirt is well, dirty. It’s unclean but it serves a useful purpose. He knows if we are sincerely trying to honor him, or if we’re deliberately ignoring or dishonoring him. He knows. So his correction and his judgment will take our intentions into account as we stand before him.

God knew that Adam and Eve would sin. After all, He made man to be a little lower than the angels. And there were angels who fell from his grace. So God already had a remedy for our sins woven into his plan for all of mankind. He knew we wouldn’t be able to be perfect, so he offered his only Son as a sacrifice. Jesus died in our place for our sins. Now we can be redeemed and our sins washed clean.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Mary’s Birth Story

She was very surprised to learn she was having a baby. This pregnancy was unplanned. To say the least. She was engaged to be married. She was a virgin. So, technically, there was no way she could become pregnant. Except for one thing. An angel of God visited her. He said she would have a child. This child would be the Son of God. She was to carry and birth the Savior of the world.

Then during the final days of Mary’s pregnancy, she and Joseph left town. They traveled to Bethlehem to be counted in the census. It was roughly a seventy mile trip. Mary on the donkey. Joseph on foot. The terrain was hilly and uneven. It was rough country. The trip either went straight through Samaritan country, or down an out of the way path around the city to reach Bethlehem. The first option was dangerous and uncertain. The second route added more time to an already long trip.

On top of the uncertainties of the trip, Mary was heavily pregnant. Her time was coming due. Oh. She had no birth plan, as is the norm these days. She had never given birth. Perhaps she had been involved in midwifery for other women. Yet she was young. Perhaps she had witnessed her mother birthing younger siblings. Had her mother instructed her on what to expect in birthing a baby? Was she prepared to be completely alone with her husband who was not the father of her child? Did Joseph know what to expect when his wife was expecting?

When the couple arrived in Bethlehem, there were crowds of people. Hotel rooms were full. No vacancy anywhere. They found space in a stable where they spent time awaiting the impending birth. And her time came as they were in the distant city. She was not surrounded by women who knew her. She was not in the company of friends. She was alone with the man who was her husband but not the father of her child. She had yet to know this man intimately, yet he was to help her birth the baby.

Was it an awkward experience for both of them? Joseph was not experienced at delivering babies. Oh. He worked with his hands, but as a carpenter. His hands were rough and strong. But perhaps he was gentle as he soothed her sweaty brow. Was she in labor for hours? Was it an easy birth? Or, was this the perfect labor and delivery, because the Deliverer was being delivered? There were no robes of royalty for this newborn. Mary wrapped this infant King in strips of cloth.

Oh. There was no birthing room. No blood tests. No IV. No heartbeat monitors. No epidural. No apgar test. There were no newborn photos to share with the family. There were no footprints inked on a birth certificate. No steak dinners to celebrate the happy occasion. They were in a stable where animals were kept. Nothing was sterile about the place, yet this perfect child came to save an unsterile world.


The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel. Matthew 1:23


But the birth announcement was out of this world. Literally. As shepherds were in the fields that night, an angel burst onto the scene. He announced the birth of this baby. And then a choir of angels appeared and sang to the shepherds. They sang of his birth. Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth. Goodwill to all men. The shepherds immediately left the fields and found the stable in Bethlehem. There they worshipped the infant King of kings and Lord of lords.

On the eighth day after his birth, Mary and Joseph took the baby to the temple where he was circumcised. He was given the name Jesus. An offering of two doves was presented that day. It was a typical day in the life of a couple christening their child.

But there were those in the temple. Two who had been waiting for this moment. They had been waiting for years. Their hearts had been stirred as he was brought in for this ceremony. They knew what only his parents knew. They confirmed that he was the Son of God. The Incarnate God in flesh. And only eight days old.

I’m sure Mary pondered this unusual announcement in her heart. She and Joseph had not shared the details of this immaculate conception with strangers. There was no need. Yet here they came. An elderly man named Simon and an elderly widowed woman named Anna. They each shared the prophecies of the birth of this One born in the royal line of David.

Everything we need to know about Mary’s birth story has been written. The information is shared throughout the Bible. The more personal and private details have been left out. Because they aren’t the focus of the story. The baby’s weight is inconsequential. The hours of labor aren’t counted. It doesn’t matter when her water broke. Or when she was fully dilated. The birth of this baby was ordained by God the Father. His birth was part of a beautiful, sacrificial plan for mankind’s salvation. No other birth story compares. The breath of eternal life is given to everyone who calls on the name of Jesus.

Like A Shepherd

There is a rift in our world. A rift caused by mandates, politics, social justice issues, divisiveness and ideologies. We are being pulled apart by evil forces. Oh Lord, I ask that you heal the rift. Bring us together to have meaningful conversations. Help us, regardless of our stand on issues, to be open to hearing another viewpoint. But always, Lord, always point us back to you. Point us back to the need for salvation and forgiveness of sins. Point us to the babe in the manager who was born so we could be delivered from eternal condemnation.

We are in a spiritual battle, as never before in our lifetime. Oh. There has always been trouble. People have always disagreed with each other. Political parties have tried for centuries to destroy the opposition. Sports teams have always had rivalries. Wars break out and will continue to do so. Animosity is forever a part of history. But this is different. This battle is spiritual. At its core, evil forces are moving. Wreaking havoc. And we must be on guard. Because this battle is for our soul. And we need the babe born in a stable. Born to be the Savior of the world to fight this battle for us. We need Him now more than ever.

We need this Savior to shepherd us in the path of life. As we face every decision, temptation and trial down the winding road, we need a Savior. And so we ask. Savior, like a shepherd lead us.


Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21


Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care. In thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare. Oh. Heavenly Father. How we need your tender care. Not just in this season, but in every season of life. Your tender care and mercies carry us through the disappointments, hurts and trials of life. Only you can lead us in the path we should go. For we know that those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. We ask that you prepare your folds with plenty, so we can be well fed in your pleasant pastures. We hunger for your presence and for your sustaining grace.

We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the Guardian of our way. Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray. Even when we stray, Father, we pray that you will be our friend. Be the guardian of our way. Seek us out when we stray from your will and from your presence. As our friend, we ask for your strong defense when we can no longer defend ourselves. When we are at the end of our rope, pull us back into the safety of your loving arms.

Thou has promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be. Thou has mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and power to free. Your mercy is new every morning, Father. Your Word says so. We ask that you extend your mercy to our broken, poor and sinful selves. Cleanse us from all our sins and free us from the power of sin. Make us white as snow, with the mercy you provide for today. We ask that you break the chains that bind us. Shower us with grace in our moments of failure.

Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do thy will. Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill. Help us, Father, to seek you early and often. Nudge us and make us aware of your love. Fill us with your presence and guide us to do the works that you have called us to do. Your will is the only will we must follow. For you will not lead us astray.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus. Thou hast loved us, love us still. We know, Father, that nothing can remove us from your love. And for that we give you thanks. We don’t deserve your love. But oh, how we need it. We are broken and battered by sin. The scars of our faults and failures are on full display for you to see. Yet you love us still. Your love is everlasting. For eternity. And we are eternally grateful.

For Thine is the power and the glory forever. Amen.

The Messenger

His parents waited many years for him to come along. They were a barren couple. No children and now old age had somehow crept in. Until one day, Zechariah received a visit from an angel of the Lord announcing that he would be a father. Oh. Zechariah was so pleased and in disbelief that he was tongue tied. He wasn’t able to speak from that day until his son’s birth announcement. Zechariah was able to announce that his son was to be named John.

The angel told him wonderful things about this child who was to be born. His son would grow to be a man, and would be great in the eyes of the Lord. He was called to a special assignment. He was to prepare the people for the ministry of Jesus Christ.

But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Luke 1:13-17

John was a voice calling in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. As he taught, the people would ask what they should do. John’s response was straight and to the point. If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry. He told the corrupt tax collectors to collect no more taxes than the government requires. And to the soldiers, he said not to extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.

John knew he was the messenger for the Promised Messiah. He knew there was one coming who was greater than himself. John was comfortable with that. He didn’t try to be the Messiah. He was paving the way for One to come after him. He was the voice calling to the crowds that a new King was coming.

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord ’s coming! Clear the road for him!’ ” Mark 1:1-3


Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Mark 16:15


Now we too must share the message of the One who is coming. We too must share the good news of His promised return. Oh. He has already come to the earth as the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. He who was hunted as a child. The twelve year old who knew he must be about his Father’s business. The young man who learned the trade of his earthly father. And at age thirty, he started a ministry that turned the world on its heels. And for three short years, his message rang out for those who would listen.

Oh. He was rejected in his own hometown. People thought he was trying to be someone he wasn’t. After all. He was the son of a carpenter. He wasn’t God. That’s what they said. But little did they know. Little did they believe.

But he was God. And he’s still God. And before he returned to heaven, he suffered and died on a cross. He had a thorn of crowns shoved into his head. His clothes were torn in two. His side was pierced. And with his last breath, he was ushered into heaven to sit at the right hand of his Father. He is waiting there today for all His children.

And today that message is ours to share. We who have repented of our sins and called on his name for forgiveness are now called to share the good news of salvation. We are now the messengers calling others to repentance. Not in a superior tone of voice. But in love and grace. Because just as we have been saved from our sins, we want the world to also share in that forgiveness. But one must ask for this free gift.

The One who is greater than us is returning to gather his people. We don’t know when that day will come, but it’s getting closer. Signs point to the nearness of the time of his return.

Our message today is that there is one coming who is greater than us. Are you ready to meet him?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The Act of Obedience

She was a teenage girl engaged to be married. She and her fiancé were waiting to consummate the marriage. And then she received a visit from an angel who shared with her that she had been chosen for a very important role in history. She was going to have a baby, the Son of God. And she agreed to do this with just one question. How can this happen since I am a virgin?

Mary believed the words of the angel. She accepted the fact that she had been chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb. She agreed to be his mother. She didn’t argue with the angel. She accepted all the knowns and the unknowns. She had no idea how this baby would upend her life. For the rest of her life. But she laid down her will and plans for a simple life and followed the will of her Heavenly Father.

I wonder. Did Mary, a teenage girl, ever wonder why she was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God? Oh. She may have wondered. The Bible says that she pondered things in her heart. She knew her son was different, but she followed God’s plan.

Mary was a woman after God’s own heart. This was confirmed by her visit to Elizabeth, as she sang allegiance to Him in affirmation of her obedience to this heavenly request.

Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

Luke 1:46-55

God chose you out of all the people of the earth as his cherished personal treasure. Deuteronomy 14:2


Joseph has his own side of this story. When he learned that Mary was pregnant, he knew he could divorce her. Because having a child outside of marriage could bring ridicule and shame on her for the rest of her life. And she was only a teenager. Did he want to raise another man’s child? Joseph considered divorce, but he was a good man. He was a godly man. And when an angel appeared to him in a dream, Joseph learned that Mary had been faithful to him. This child was God’s. Joseph believed the angel, and he willingly agreed to obey God. He would not divorce Mary. Joseph agreed to marry a woman who was pregnant with someone else’s child. He would not walk away from her.

Joseph later had other dreams where God gave him instructions. Each time, God warned him to leave his location or not to move to a specific place. God was guiding Joseph to protect the life of the child who didn’t carry his DNA. He never once questioned God’s commands. He obeyed without hesitation.

Joseph was a man after God’s own heart. He was the stand in earthly father to the Son of God. Imagine the thoughts he must have had when he laid his head on his pillow at night. What am I doing? Who do I think I am? Trying to be a father to this boy who is God. But he never backed down from the assignment.

I wonder. Did Joseph ever doubt that he had made the wrong decision? Did he wonder if he could do the job that he was tasked with? Did he wonder if he was capable of being father to a boy who was God himself? Oh. He may have. But he didn’t walk away from the call. He didn’t back down from obeying God. He walked into the path God set before him and kept on walking the road of obedience.

Obedience to God’s leading doesn’t mean that trials and troubles won’t come our way. Oh. They will. And they will be many. But the peace and joy of knowing we’re doing as God commanded will sustain us through those trying times.

God is sovereign. He has the power, authority and wisdom to do anything he chooses. He prepared Mary and Joseph to take on the task of parenting this child of heavenly royalty. God knew what he was doing in asking these two unsuspecting ones to birth and raise the holy Son of God. And they trusted him without question.

Oh. God has not asked me to do the hard task of raising his son. He doesn’t need to. He favored Mary and gave her that responsibility. But the role he has for me is still as important. In its own right. Because it’s the simple yet complicated act of obedience that sets us apart as his own. Yes. Obedience is simple yet very complicated. Simple because all we need to do is say yes. Complicated because the path is unknown and perhaps uncertain. But the Way Maker is the one who will provide the certainty and the courage. He’ll make the way when there seems to be no way. Our task is simply to follow.

Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.

C.S. Lewis

Long Expected Jesus

The people had been told for centuries that someone was coming to be their Savior. This was a promise and a prophecy that had yet to be fulfilled. The promise was for a new covenant that would replace the laws. This covenant would put in place the salvation of sins. Because this promised Messiah would die in their place. For their sins. He was to be the Savior of the world.

The Scriptures told details of the promised Messiah. He would be born of a woman. She would be a virgin giving birth to a baby. An assumed impossibility. This baby would be born in Bethlehem. He would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah. He was in line to sit on the throne of King David. Yet his reign would be eternal. He would be called Immanuel.

And so they waited.

Once he was born, some recognized the significance of his birth. Angels announced his arrival to shepherds. But life was not without risk for this newborn. Magi had told King Herod that an heir to the throne of David had been born, and they had come from a distant land to worship him. Herod knew his reign and legacy were at risk. So he had to act quick. This is when he ruled all boys aged two and under must be eliminated.

After the Magi’s visit, the family escaped to Egypt to avoid being discovered. Joseph had been warned in a dream to move, in order to save the life of the One who would die to save us from our sins.

Oh. But trouble continued to follow this man, Jesus. He didn’t ask for trouble. He came to bring peace. But a messenger would come before him to pave the way. This forerunner’s message would open the hearts of the hearers in preparation for the message of the Promised One. This Messiah, a prophet nonetheless, would be rejected by his own people. They would plot and plan ways to be rid of him. They would falsely accuse him. The religious leaders tried to trick him, but they failed at every turn. He outsmarted each and every attempt. At times, he just remained silent. Let them look the fools they were. After all, he was God in human form. Did they not realize it?

Oh. He bore our sins on the cross and suffered in our place. He bled and died so that we would have eternal life, if only we accept him as Lord and Savior of our lives.


For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. Isaiah 9:6-7


Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Charles Wesley

There were many prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in his lifetime. Some have yet to be accomplished. Because Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection weren’t the only prophecies. After his resurrection from the dead, he ascended to heaven to take his place at the right hand of God the Father. He will fulfill another prophecy by returning to take his people home. His return will break the eastern sky and draw all believers to heaven. So, we’re once again waiting for Jesus. We’re waiting for his return.

And now this world of weary believers is asking for Jesus to come once again. He fulfilled the first promise of coming as a man to save the lost. He has fulfilled the promised covenant. For we all are lost and in need of a Savior.  Now please do it again. Come to take your people home. We long for eternity with King Jesus. 

We await the wedding feast that he is preparing for us, his bride. Those who are invited to the wedding feast are called blessed. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May his name be praised.

Oh, come thou long expected Jesus.

He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:14

Verdict

The jury signaled they had made a decision. The judge called the families into the courtroom. Instructions were given to those in attendance. No verbal reaction to the verdict was allowed. Or law enforcement would escort the vocal responders out of the courtroom. The defendant stood to hear his fate. Each count was read with the decision. At the end of the reading, the defendant collapsed with relief. He was acquitted of all charges.

The judge asked the jury if the verdict was unanimous. Yes. They said. This eighteen year old man is now free to live his life. He could walk out of that courtroom as a free man. He could no longer be tried for these offenses ever again.

Regardless, this young man’s life is now forever changed. He’s already been receiving police protection for many months. He will most likely be forced to move out of state and become incognito for awhile. His career plans may have to be rethought. He’s been offered a possible internship. But when will his life ever return to normal? Or, is this his new normal? Life will never be the same.

Some are calling him a hero. Others say he’s a fool. He says he acted in self defense. Others call him a domestic terrorist. A white supremacist. We could argue back and forth for hours. We’re a country divided. We’re a country that needs to get back to loving and obeying God.

Tragedy doesn’t usually give you a heads up. It just happens. And then the next events are crucial for all involved. That’s exactly what happened in this young man’s situation. Some say he shouldn’t have ever gotten involved that night. He was too young. Too inexperienced. Too eager to be a hero. But the events of that night are forever forged in our nation’s history. There is no going back.


Do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8


Once again, the country is torn by a legal decision. Some believe this young man should have been put in prison for life with no chance of parole. Others believe the right decision was made. There will, no doubt, be many strong discussions about this verdict. What did the defense do right? What did the prosecution do wrong? And vice versa. Could or should anything have been done differently?

News outlets and social media are all ablaze with opinions and legal analysis. Influencers are sharing their uneducated opinions on the outcome of the trial. Some of their followers are unfollowing them, because their beliefs are at an obvious difference. And everyone has a choice of who they follow and who they don’t. Influencers are also blocking people who sharply disagree, because they don’t want naysayers clogging their feed.

Some are calling for rioting in the city. Others are begging for peace. Some disagree with the verdict, but they’re asking for everyone to accept the judgment. Some cities are rioting. Others are claiming justice was served.

It’s easy to judge someone when we haven’t walked in their shoes. We may think we know what’s best when the problem is someone else’s. It’s easy to make decisions when it affects them and not us. Because we always do the right thing. Don’t we? It’s always the other person who’s wrong. That’s what we think. Because if we think we’re right, then the other person is wrong.

The defendant, the defense team, the jury, the judge and his family have received death threats. People are taking this case personally. Some have decided that racism is involved. Others don’t agree. Can we we find any common ground? Can’t we come to the table and discuss our differences? Can we agree to disagree? Can we no longer seek peace and pursue it? Why are we so divided these days?

I read that it’s easy to take a stand when it doesn’t cost you anything. So what’s the answer? We’ve got to get America back to God.

I wonder. What would happen if we actually did what was right? What if we truly loved mercy? And what if we put all our effort into walking humbly with our God? This world would be in much different shape than it is today. The only verdict we would be waiting for would be when we enter eternity and hear the words “Welcome home, my child. Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your eternal reward.”

Shall We Pray

Heavenly Father,

We humbly bow before you once again asking for your help as we see the evil that surrounds us. We know that your will is being accomplished in the world today. We thank you for loving us even though we have turned from following your commands. We ask for your mercy as we navigate the winding path called life. We need your guiding hand upon us.

In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth. You made the heavens with your hands. You have said that these things will perish, but you will never change.

Your throne, O God, endures forever. You rule with a scepter of justice. You will always be the same. Yesterday. Today. And forever.

You have loved us with an everlasting love, and yet we continue to run from you. As if you are someone to run from. Because even though we run, you still see us. You still know all about us. We can’t run far enough from your love.

Oh Father. Your name is holy. Your son, Jesus Christ, is God himself. He humbled himself and was born a human baby. He gave up his divine privileges to become a helpless baby and then move through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. He experienced every temptation known to man. And yet he did not sin. He died a cruel and painful death on a criminal’s cross. For my sins. For everyone’s sins. Oh. And they are many. So he is now elevated at the place of highest honor. And you’ve given him the name above all names. And at the appointed time, every knee will bow at the mention of his name.

We understand that every act on this earth is ordained by you. Your will is always accomplished. Difficulties in our lives are opportunities for us to draw closer to you. To learn to trust you and depend on your guidance. To know you better. All our days are determined by you. You know what’s coming. And you know where we’ve been. You see us even today. Our days are numbered.


Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14


We can’t run from judgment day. Because at the end, we will stand before you in judgment. You have said that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Lord, you hate the way of the wicked, but you love those who pursue godliness. Your eyes roam throughout the earth, and you examine everyone closely. You watch those who call on your name, and you watch those who reject your name. No one escapes your eye. You see our coming and our going. Our ways are fully known by you.

Help us to listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we will drift from it. For your message has always stood firm. And for those who haven’t listened and obeyed the truth, I pray that their hearts will soften to things eternal. I ask that you send a godly person to speak truth and to share the message of salvation with them. Oh. How we all need you.

I pray that you will forgive us our sins and give us the will to forgive those who have sinned against us. Help us not to give in to temptation. Please. Please. Deliver us from the evil one.

Meet us at our point of need. And at our point of praise. Make us aware of your presence. Make us aware of our faults, our flaws, our failures, our fears, our weaknesses. As we seek you, may we relax in your love and forgiveness, your grace and mercy. Remind us of your faithfulness and your sacrifice. For we know we were bought with a price. A heavy price of death on the cross for your only son, Jesus Christ. May we be eternally thankful for your sacrifice and gift of forgiveness.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen