Posted in advent, Advent devotions, Devotions

2020 Advent devotion: In the flesh

“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 14, 2020. Read 1 Timothy 3:16 and Psalm 1.

“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).

Paul writes these words in a letter to Timothy, reminding him that life in the household of God is different. Such a life is a result of and flows from the life of Christ, who was divine, has ascended, is the object of our faith and was revealed to us “live and in person.”

From time to time, someone will ask me, “How did you learn to do that?” More than a few times I’ve answered, “My dad taught me how.” Dad taught me how to throw and catch a baseball, how to tune up a car (when a tune up meant plugs and points), how to drive a stick-shift, how to grow vegetables, how to finish sheetrock, how to do some basic home electrical work, how to glaze a window, how to sharpen a pocket knife, how to solder wires, how to sing harmony, how to fill out a scorecard at a baseball game, how to sharpen a lawn mower blade with a grinding wheel, how to whistle, and how to eat corn on the cob.

Now when I want to learn how to do something, I watch a YouTube video. I’ve always been able to find step-by-step instructions for any repair or project. Just as effective as dad? Probably. But it’s different. You can’t ask questions and you can’t ask for help.

In the life of Jesus, God “manifested in the flesh,” we find out just how serious God is about our lives. Jesus is someone who knew how to do everything required by the covenant. Folks learned a lot about compassion, mercy, sacrifice, forgiveness and love as they interacted with Him.

I learned a lot about pastoral care on my vicarage (3rd year internship of a four-year seminary program). I had a book about it. But I learned a lot by watching a pastor, my supervisor, actually do what a pastor does live and in person.

Such is the blessing of a Savior “manifested in the flesh.”

Thank You, Father, for the life, the example and the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus, who came in person to be my Savior. Amen.

Posted in advent, Advent devotions, Devotions

2020 Advent devotion: The Word became flesh

Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 13, 2020. Read John 1:14 and Psalm 33.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John  1:14).

Having gone to church and Sunday School all my life, it is easy to take the human Jesus for granted. He’s born, grows up, walks around, eats fish, drinks wine, and bleeds when whipped. He sleeps, cries, draws, spits, and sweats. Just like each one of us.

But that person was God (John 1:1). The Eternal now has a birthday and a funeral. The One who said, “Let there be light” must now learn to speak. The omnipresent God now has a local address. The omniscient God sits and asks questions of the teachers in the temple. The Almighty might now be found taking a nap. The King of kings and Lord of lords submits to a local governor.

Just think of how amazing it is when an idea or words become something tangible. A recipe becomes a delicious meal. A script becomes a play. A book is made into a movie. Lyrics on a score become a song. A prescription becomes medication that makes you feel better. A promise results in a marriage and then a family. A wish becomes a birthday gift. A loved one’s words are etched onto a tombstone.

But the promises and prophecies of a birth and a child who will be God with us was hard to first century folks to grasp. They seemed underwhelmed. “Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?” “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” “Is the Christ going to come from Galilee?” “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Meeting celebrities can be disappointing. “He’s so much shorter than he’s looks on TV!” “She was so rude. She wouldn’t even sign an autograph.” “How could he leave her?” Substance abuse, depression and family problems are just as much a part of life for the rich and famous as they are for us. Life in the flesh can be ugly.

The prophets said the Servant of God wouldn’t be attractive, would be despised and rejected, and wouldn’t have any honor in his own hometown. Welcome to the real world, Jesus.

But that’s where we see the glory of God. We are more important to him than honor, praise, respect, acceptance or popularity. We are more important to him than his own life. We are his treasure. The apple of his eye. His dearly loved children.

As we all know, Lord, life in the flesh isn’t easy. Thanks for becoming flesh for us, so that we might always have life with you. Amen.

Posted in Advent devotions, Devotions

Advent devotions: Live and in person!

Special 2020 Advent devotions prequel

This has been a crazy year of quarantine, shelter-in-place, distancing and masks. I’ve preached to an empty sanctuary. You’ve worshiped online. I’ve taught and led meetings via Zoom.

But it’s just not the same, is it?

From the very beginning, God said it wasn’t good for his created people to be alone. That’s why he created the woman. In those Edenic days, God would walk through the garden he had created, personally interacting with the man and the woman. Until that one day, Adam and Eve attempted to “quarantine” themselves with some leaves in the bushes because they had disobeyed the prime directive to not eat from that tree.

That changed everything. But God knew that was not the way it was supposed to be. In that moment, he initiated a plan to restore the relationship between Him and His creation. He promised to be a part of their lives.

Advent is a powerful time in the church year to remember God’s journey into this world as flesh and blood, as a person, as a baby. Scripture is filled with images and foreshadowing of the incarnation when the Word would indeed become flesh. This year my Advent devotions are intended to help you reflect upon the power, comfort and assurance that God has not abandoned you, but has come to be with you. It’s not just on paper. it’s not just a story. It is God in the flesh, live and in person!

In the past few months, some of your doctor visits have been through windows or via Skype. You have virtually celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and graduations via Zoom. Perhaps you have appeared before a judge online. Yes, we can get it done that way. But it’s just not the same, is it? It’s frustrating, isolating, quiet, confining, claustrophobic and lonely.

God’s word says we are much stronger when we are together than when we are apart. Two or three together cannot be easily broken!

Isolation threatens our faith. It weakens us. It undermines our faith, friendships and perceptions.

Job knew that not even death could take away his personal connection with God. He knew he would see his Redeemer in the flesh one day. We too look forward to that day!

I pray that this year’s devotions will bless you. I hope they will help you grasp the amazing grace of God that refuses to let us live apart form His love!

Posted in Christmas

He knew we’d want to play with this.

IMG-7920I knew I’d be watching my two-year-old grandson Elijah for a few hours today while my daughter and wife did a little shopping. Before he arrived, I set out our little Playmobile nativity out on the porch.

From the moment he saw it he was delighted! He exclaimed, “This is perfect!” And then he picked up the baby from the manger and announced, “He’s awake!” He pointed out the donkey, camel, and sheep. Then, spotting the magi’s treasure chests, his eyes got big and he burst out with “Presents!” We got a full ninety minutes of play from this season’s first encounter with the cast of characters from Luke 2 and Matthew 2!

I believe our all-knowing Father knew that his children would delight in this hands-on telling and re-enactment of Christ’s birth. I can’t prove it, but I would contend he purposely chose the first-century, Roman empire, Bethlehem, virgin and carpenter setting because he knew it would capture our imagination, our hearts, and our souls.

I also believe it is therapeutic to sit and play with a nativity, preferably with kids. The holidays aren’t always the easiest times to navigate. You may be dealing with distance, death or divorce. There may be family conflicts, financial worries, unrealistic demands and unmet expectations, But when you sit down to play with a nativity, much of that fades behind the reminders of God’s promises, faithfulness, and presence. He shows up in the lives of real, ordinary people just like us, to walk us through guilt, sorrow, doubt, fear, pain, or whatever we’re dealing with.

That’s what it’s all about. Even a child knows that. I guess Jesus was right. You really need to be a child.