Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Luke 21:34-38

Psalm 79          Micah 5:1-5a          Luke 21:34-38

                 The author of the Gospel of Luke was a physician. He traveled many of the missionary roads of the New Testament with the Apostle Paul. We also know that he was bright, articulate, and careful in his depiction of the life of Jesus.
                 In Chapter 21, Luke brings the words of Jesus to life. He also revives a portion of our             conversation from the past two days. Did you notice in verse 34 when he made reference to ‘that day’ that will close like a spring loaded trap? Remember, from our modern point of view it is easy to read ‘that day’ as any-old-day. But everyone who heard the words of Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about. It was a specific day in the spiritual history of the world when everything would change           dramatically.
Did you also notice the two key things Jesus commanded for the people? He must have been thinking about our Advent season in 2011! He said watch and pray. Watch, be ready, be aware, don’t let it slip by, put it at the top of your list, watch. He also instructed them to pray. Watch and pray, those are the two key spiritual disciplines of Advent.
I would like to ask you to join me in a bit of an experiment that will take us to the end of the day. Would you be willing to commit yourself to a heightened awareness of the presence of God in your life? Take a moment; put the plan and presence of God on your calendar. Stick the name of God to your refrigerator with a magnet. Put a sticky note on your computer screen. Do whatever you need to do, but create a way to keep the presence of God fully in your awareness. When you do that, you will be watching and praying. You will be fulfilling the teaching of Jesus.
The Road to the Manger is filled with watching and praying. Lord, make us aware!   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Micah 4:6-16

Psalm 79          Micah 4:6-16          Revelation 18:1-10

                 Micah heard from the Lord! He called out to God and now he receives a response. Have you ever heard from the Lord? Maybe you heard a still small voice, or the quiet nudge to go this way instead of that way, or perhaps you could testify to a clear message that God provided in your life.    Micah could offer that testimony. He heard from the Lord.
The message he heard calls us back to our conversation about ‘that day’ the ‘day of the Lord’ or ‘in the last days.’ The message Micah hears from God is about ‘that day’ of transformation and hope that we talked about yesterday. But today the word and the activity of God is fleshed out with clarity.  The actions of God are stated specifically and personally. God is going to gather those who are disabled, retrieve the exiles, and speak to those who grieve.
We learn something about God through this word. We discover what we have known all along.  That God does not seek out the tall, athletic, beautiful, gifted, handsome, or brilliant folks among the people of God as a first option. Instead, God is more likely to think about the poor, the disabled, the grief stricken, the exile, the orphan and the widow.
Perhaps the things we learn about God’s thinking should become an ingredient of our own lives. Perhaps our Advent giving and our Christmas service to others could be directed to the people that arrive first on the mind and heart of God.
The New Testament teaches us that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Book of Romans instructs us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Would it make any difference in the way we choose to live this day if the mind of God were present in our own lives?   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Micah 4:1-5

Psalm 7          Micah 4:1-5          Revelation 15:1-8

                  The writers of the Old Testament often made reference to the promise of the anticipated   Messiah by using language in a way that everyone in their day understood very clearly. Today we might simply refer to ‘nine-eleven’ without any additional explanation needed. Everyone would understand.
The same is true for the words Micah used to open this section of Scripture. He said, “In the last days” and everyone knew that he was talking about the Messianic promise. He was thinking about a day when everything would be different. It would be a time when people would discover a new      understanding of hope. On that day there would be a fresh spirit of worship. It would be so radical that even entire nations would begin to relate to each other in some novel and unexpected ways. They would train for war no more. They would have their own vine and their own fig tree to sustain them.  And no one would live in fear.
On that beautiful and transforming day the people could ‘walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.’ We would add, AMEN! We add a hearty Amen for the prayer of the ancient people of Micah’s day. But we also add a prayerful Amen for our own lives and our own times.
Advent is about waiting. It is about getting ready. It is about a heart that is filled with              anticipation that stems from a wonderful and powerful spirit of expectation. Embedded in the depth of our prayer is our desire for the transformation of the world that will come on that day of the Lord.
Lord Jesus, come, fill us!  Lord Jesus, start here!   

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The First Sunday of Advent

This is the first installment (29 days to follow) of The Road to the Manger Advent devotional guide.  
Note that the four Scripture readings are from the Common Lectionary.  
The reading that is marked in bold is the focus for the thoughts that follow. 
I pray that our Advent journey will be rich and rewarding!

Isaiah 64:1-9          Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19          I Corinthians 1:3-9         Mark 13:24-37

             Today is a day of worship! What a joy it is when the people of God gather to worship the Lord.  All creation sings as people of faith live their lives in an act of praise. Thanks for being a person who values worship!
If you open the song book of the Psalms and turn to number 80, you will discover that it was originally written for the tune “The Lilies of the Covenant.” We don’t know what that tune sounded like but we do know that the lyrics have chorus and verse. The main body of the song is a cry to God to hear the plight of the people. You can hear the depth of their tears in the refrain that is repeated three times in a fairly short Psalm.
Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
Make your face to shine on us, that we may be saved.

I wonder how many times they sang that song. How many days did they wait for restoration?  How long would they be willing to linger with the hope that the face of God would shine on them once again? How long would you be prepared to wait for a fresh glimpse at the savior? What would you be willing to do so you could be sure you were ready to receive the Messiah?
We are waiting. We are praying. We are singing out our prayers of hope as we describe the depth of our need to the Lord. As we wait, as we prepare, as we worship, as we experience your Word…restore us, Lord God Almighty! Make your face to shine on us, that we may be saved. Come, Lord Jesus!    ²

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  I pray that your day is filled with blessings!

Watch here starting Sunday November 27 for a 29 day devotional guide that will take us down the Road to the Manger.  It will feature daily Scripture and a brief devotional thought.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prayer Requests

It seems like I am always asking someone to pray.  It happens on Sunday morning when we gather for worship.  It happens in one-on-one settings.  It even happens through strange electronic media.  So, what happens when people pray?

I remember a conversation from years past.  I was sitting with a group of pastors.  One shared a prayer request about her son who was enlisting in the military so he could prepare to go to war.  She wanted to protect her son and invited us to pray for him.

Another member of the group was first to speak.  "I can't pray for your son because...what if something happens...would that prove God's unwillingness to hear our prayers?"  Bummer, I thought.  Did I just hear that?  Yep, I can't pray because God might not be faithful.  I spoke next and offered to pray for her son.

God doesn't always answer my prayers.  In fact, sometimes they just seem to go off somewhere unknown.  Other times they boomerang back with the speed of light.  Then there are those sacred moments when God draws near and invites us all to pray.  In a way, it is God's prayer request that always brings us to our knees.

Today I am praying for my favorite seminary students who will soon be leading the people of God in acts of prayer.  I am praying for current disciples who are struggling with their faith that will one day be solid and strong.  I am praying for all the people who are afraid to pray.  I am praying for someone to come along at just the right time so I can share a prayer request with them.

Like the glow of a quiet candle, like the subtle warmth of the flame, like the wax that becomes soft and fluid, like your heart and mine...I pray that we will always pray together.