Devotional reflection Feed

Together

Dscf1854_2 As a kid, one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time was to take an evening drive with the family and look at the Christmas lights and decorations on the neighborhood houses in our town.  I remember how the car windows would fog up with condensation and I remember how we would inch along with the rest of the traffic, taking a long look at the really “good” displays.

Now I have a family of my own.  During the years that we lived in the United States we would load up the car and take a tour of the Christmas lights of the city.  We knew where the really good subdivisions were and we “oohed” and “aahed” our way through the neighborhoods with the hundreds of other cars.  In the days preceding Christmas my daughters would ask, “When are we going to go see the lights?”  I loved driving them through the subdivisions, hearing them comment on the beautiful decorations and watching them doodle pictures on the fogged up side windows of the car.

These days we live in a large city in South Korea.  We don’t have a car, we get around by taxi and subway and there are no subdivisions to drive through.  The city is full of tall twenty story apartment buildings and there are very few Christmas lights on display as they would pale in comparison to the lights and signs of the stores, shops and businesses in the urban environment.

However, we have found one place where there are lots of cool Christmas lights.  The downtown area of the city has an elaborate display of decorations and these combined with the thousands of people walking throughout the shopping area make it a very festive place to visit during the Christmas Season.  Last year we enjoyed the lights of downtown and we looked forward to seeing them again this year.

As I reflect on my childhood memories of driving around and seeing the lights I realize that I can’t remember what a single light display looked like.  As I think about my experience of taking my own children around the neighborhoods to look at the lights of Christmas I realize that it wasn’t about the lights—it was about the experience of being together.

When Jesus, the light of the world came upon the scene that first Christmas, the angel announced His coming by stating “peace on earth, goodwill to men.”  Something very special happened on that evening in history.  God came near to be together with us.  God reached out to you and me with His son, Jesus Christ, to restore us unto Himself—so that we could be together with Him.  The glitz, glamour and flashing lights of life fade quickly from our memories but the warmth of relationship creates a lasting impression.

Last night, my wife, my two daughters and I walked arm in arm through the spectacular Christmas lights, sounds and crowds of South Korea.  I loved it.  It was a great memory most of all because we were….together.   


Dance!

Dscf1623 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”      Luke 2:13-14 (KJV)

Tuesday in our campus chapel we spent the hour singing carols, listening to a student read aloud the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2, and gazing upon a live still scene of the Nativity.

As the story was read, the characters of the Nativity entered stage right—first Mary and the baby Jesus, then Joseph, then the angel and the shepherds, and finally the wise men.  The characters were students.  They were student leaders—who love God—and who weren’t afraid to stand before a crowd of their peers (most of whom are not Christians) and play a part in honoring and presenting the real meaning of Christmas.

The live still scene wasn’t that spectacular and actually the students looked kind on funny in the long robes.  At times the students grinned in embarrassment…but despite what they felt, they did it.  They played the part, humbly, sincerely and willingly.Dscf1622

No one made fun of them and no one mocked them.  The hour was a time of reflection, singing, warmth, respite, safety and peace for all in attendance. 

When it comes to the Christmas story, the mocking, the teasing, the scoffing, the embarrassment and the pain all come later.  It all happens to Jesus on the cross as he bears the cross for you and for me.  He bore the sin and the shame so we wouldn’t have to.  Because of Jesus, today we can consider the scene at the manger and know of a place of warmth, respite, safety, peace, hope and love.

I so enjoyed the Christmas chapel service.  With my eyes fixed upon the Nativity scene I sang the carols through a lump in my throat.  The last song of the service was a “peppy” version of “Angels We Have Heard On High.”  As I gazed at the scene before me my eyes welled with tears and then….......I lost it. 

I lost it because the angel started to dance.  She knew it was the last song, the program was nearly over, her smile brightened and she danced--and I loved it.

With Christmas comes the reminder that the time of fear is over.  In Jesus, it is time to dance!

Dscf1624Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”


Pottery

Dscf1131_2 Isaiah 68:4-8

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4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
       no ear has perceived,
       no eye has seen any God besides you,
       who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
       who remember your ways.
       But when we continued to sin against them,
       you were angry.
       How then can we be saved?

6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
       and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
       we all shrivel up like a leaf,
       and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

7 No one calls on your name
       or strives to lay hold of you;
       for you have hidden your face from us
       and made us waste away because of our sins.

8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
       We are the clay, you are the potter;
       we are all the work of your hand.


In the Thick of It

"Jesus Christ reveals, not an embarrassed God, not a confused God, not a God who stands apart from the problems, but One who stands in the thick of the whole thing with man."

--Chambers, O. 1958, Disciples Indeed

I hope this quote by Oswald Chambers serves to encourage and challenge you today.  Aren't you thankful that God is right in the thick of things with you?  I am.

On another note......

Where are you standing?  Paul says that in Christ we no longer live but rather Christ lives in us.  We are God's hands and feet.  Are you in the thick of it with someone else?

Did you notice the title of the book that the above quote came from?

Disciples Indeed

Hmmmm......


Chew on this awhile...

Psalm 130 (NLT)

1 From the depths of despair, O Lord,
      I call for your help.
2 Hear my cry, O Lord.
      Pay attention to my prayer.

3 Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
      who, O Lord, could ever survive?
4 But you offer forgiveness,
      that we might learn to fear you.

5 I am counting on the Lord;
      yes, I am counting on him.
      I have put my hope in his word.
6 I long for the Lord
      more than sentries long for the dawn,
      yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord;
      for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
      His redemption overflows.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
      from every kind of sin.

My attention was drawn to this passage of scripture in a worship service led by the group, Station 2--look them up, they are great.

As I meditate on this passage I am stunned and deeply moved.  I see four things that I can do and three things that God does.

4 things I do:

  • Call to the Lord for help
  • Count on the Lord
  • Put my hope in the Lord and in His word
  • Long for the Lord

3 things God does:

  • He offers forgiveness
  • He pours out redemption
  • He holds out unfailing love

Wow, chew on that awhile and taste and see that the Lord is good.


Be....?

"Be simply and directly and unmistakably His today."          --Oswald Chambers

Be......

Simply--no flash, no dash, no frills, no show, no crowds,....

Directly--unashamed, courageous, real, no regrets,....

Unmistakably--aroma, an ambassador, salt, light, loving,...

Whose?.....His

When?.....Today


Congruence

"O Christ, my life, possess me utterly. Take me and make a little Christ of me.  If I am anything but thy Father's son, 'Tis something not yet from the darkness won.  Oh, give me light to live with open eyes.  Oh, give me life to hope above all skies.  Give me thy spirit to haunt the Father with my cries." 

--George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul

"Don't shut up any avenue of your nature, let God come into every avenue, every relationship, and you will find the nightmare curse of "secular and sacred" will go."

--Oswald Chamber, Run Today's Race

Each morning I try to do a little devotional reading-hoping to align my heart and mind with Jesus and move into the day's work, challenges and adventure with my eyes fixed on Him.

The passages above, from MacDonald and Chambers, were part of this morning's readings and my heart was quickened and challenged as I found in them a congruent message speaking directly into my life.

How many different people am I?  I am husband, a father, an assistant principal, a friend, a son, a brother, a boss, an ordained minister, a music and worship leader, an uncle, here in South Korea a Westerner, a............ the list goes on.

How many different people am I?  How do I act and think when at home, at work, when I am alone, in a crowd, at a restaurant, in a store checkout line, in a crowded subway car, on vacation,  ...........?

 As creations of God, people are amazing; there are so many facets to our lives, minds, and souls.  There are so many rooms in the house of who we are and the glory of God is realized in the very depth of each and every individual.

Because our complexity is from God it is most fruitful as it is lived out and realized in God.  That is what I think the writers MacDonald and Chambers are touching upon.  We are not to live in multiplicity, we are not to compartmentalize our lives and dwell within the "nightmare curse of the sacred and the secular."  For this is a place of diminishing returns.  Rather, God wants access to every part of our lives--to possess us "utterly."  It is in this place of "oneness" with Jesus that we live most fully and completely.

How do I do this?  MacDonald says to cry out to the Lord for help.

Romans 12: 1-2 from the Message translation sheds some light on the why and the how.

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."


Good Friday

"The Cross is God exhibiting His nature.  It is the gate through which any and every individual can enter into oneness with God.  But it is not a gate we pass right through; it is one where we abide in the life that is found there."--Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 6.

This morning our family had the opportunity to participate in a Good Friday service.  About fifty of us from TCIS gathered in a living room, read John 18 and 19, prayed together and I lead some worship songs on my guitar.  We considered Jesus' death upon the cross.  We sang of Jesus on the cross.  We remembered Jesus on the cross.  We spent some time abiding in the place of the cross.

Good Friday?  The story of John 18 and 19 is a grisly accounting of betrayal, injustice, false accusation, meanness, hatred, pain, torture and death.  What is good about that?

I saw some good today in Good Friday.  In all of the darkness, silence and pain of Good Friday I found fellowship and life.  This morning we sat together, abiding in the place of the cross.  We shared in silence and in prayer the doubts, the fears, the questions, the lonliness, and the pain that still  seems to linger--even after last year's Easter morning sunrise service--and in the midst of the darkness we found....love.

"....the greatest of these is love."

On the cross we see Jesus.  In the cross we find hope and life.  Through the cross we find the means to love others.  

The life we find at the cross is love.  Spend some time there and.....

Have a Good Friday.