Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pressing On

For many, 2016 simply stank.  I won't go into all the various whinings and moanings, which were heard from people across a broad persuasion.  A two-part recent happening, for me at least, is the "poster child" for the stinkier aspects of 2016 - - a dreadful one-two punch. A few days ago, Princess Leia was flying home for Christmas, had a massive heart attack on the plane, and just a couple days later died.  Then, today, while planning her daughter's funeral arrangements, her elderly mother had a major stroke and shortly thereafter died.
Oh yes, I know.  There are many worse "world problems".  And, I get that.  And, I know that God is sovereign.  And, I'm totally okay with that.
But still....stink-a-rama!

Here, then, we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year: 2017.  I do love to celebrate New Year's Day, because it carries with it a sense of "starting over"... a fresh start!  Even those corny, and often short-lived, resolutions carry with them a sense of hope.

I was pondering all this as I read today's verse from Hebrews 6.  (Yes, we are back to Hebrews now that my herky-jerky Advent is past!)

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Hebrews 6:1 (ESV)

The writer of Hebrews is exhorting us to not be "Groundhog Day Christians".  Do you remember that ridiculous movie, starring Bill Murray?  In it, he would go to sleep at night and awake the next morning to discover that he was required to live the previous day all over again.

Many of us live our Christian lives like that, though.  For whatever the reason, excuse or motivation, we find ourselves continuing to dwell at the beginner levels of our Christian faith.  This can be true whether the believer's commitment to Christ was made 10 days ago or 60 years ago.  Spiritual immaturity is no respecter of age; likewise, spiritual wisdom is not a guarantee to the aged.

Of course, the Christian walk is not totally linear, with a perfect upward trajectory.  It should look more akin to a climbing stock market, which despite ups and downs, peaks and dips, continues its path upward.  (God teaches us SO much in those "dips", or He tries to...)

Notice that the author of Hebrews, unlike the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, refused to simply re-teach the fundamentals to the Hebrew audience over and over again.  Instead, the author told them they needed to "bust-a-move"; and, he or she had just the teaching to effect that in their spiritual understanding: the teaching of Christ as our High Priest.  (Whew!  That's a whopper!  And, I don't mean the one from Burger King.)

So, how does a Christian do that, press on to greater spiritual maturity?
Well, it certainly won't be aided by feeding the soul only baby formula, what the writer of Hebrews calls "the elementary doctrine of Christ".  I'd venture to say that most Protestant churches today dispense baby food, or worse, "junk food".  A steady diet of either of those produces Groundhog Day Christians, with little to no growth and no hunger for it either.

The first element, then, is to seek out and consume hearty, nutritious spiritual teaching, characterized by the whole truth of the Word of God.  (I'm amazed at the lack of appetite for this.)  A key point here is that we don't eat only once or twice a week; so, any Christian feeding solely on what he or she hears from the local church pulpit is going to starve to death, spiritually speaking.

The second element is to let the Word of God make changes in your life. In other words, we need to be not only consumers, but also producers!   If we are "doers of the word and not hearers only" (James 1:22), then we will grow spiritually.  If we don't press on in this manner, letting the Holy Spirit mold us more and more into the image of our Savior, then we are merely deceiving ourselves. That smack-down is courtesy of the Holy Spirit inspiring James, thank you very much.)

I know you fellow travelers think I preach at you a lot, but really, I am preaching to myself (and you just get to hear it!) . I'm thinking that these 2 elements would make some totally awesome New Year's resolutions.  What do you think?

In the next post, we'll look at the six items the writer of Hebrews lists as "elementary, my dear Watson".

Monday, December 26, 2016

Innkeepers and Guest Rooms

This afternoon, my sister and I left my mother's house.  We spent a large part of "Boxing Day", December 26th, visiting, talking, laughing, eating and getting into various mishaps.  While at mother's, I stayed in one of her guest rooms, the one in which Hubster and I (or, in this case, just I) always stay.  Ironically, it was never my bedroom as a child but was instead my brother's and then later, my sister's.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7 (KJV)

We had a very merry Christmas.  I had wanted to blog on Luke 2:7 yesterday, but got off my trajectory due to all the family celebration.  Late last night, after everyone had gone to bed I watched a couple of Christmas videos on YouTube.  One was by Nabeel Qureshi, who made the point that "the inn" was actually likely not an inn at all, but was instead the home of a relative.  The Greek word Luke used was only used by one other person, Jesus, in the New Testament.  In those other two occasions (Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11) where the word is used, it κατάλυμα (kataluma) was translated "guest chambers" or "guest room."  So, in actuality, a more accurate rendering of the story would be like:  "Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census and had planned to stay with relatives, but all the guest rooms were taken.  The only place available was the stable, which is where they ended up, and where Jesus was born."

One thing of which I'm sure - - - there is no part of the Bible IN the Bible by accident.  What does it matter whether it was stranger (an innkeeper) or a relative who had no room for the little family? Why is this detail even important?  It is one thing for a merchant to tell you that there is "no vacancy" or that the last faddish toy of the season has been sold.  It is another to be treated shabbily by family members.

At a Christmas Eve party I was listening to friends discuss sleeping arrangements for that night and the next few.  The three adult children and their children were on the way.  There was never any talk of putting anyone into the "unfinished basement" or "the garage".  (They had no stable.) . I guarantee you that the homeowners would have given up their own bedroom before that occurred!

Yet, here we have this very, very pregnant, first-time about-to-be mother, a frightened teenager, and her slightly less young, probably bewildered husband, who were relegated to the family's stable for the night.

How do most decent people treat guests?  We warmly welcome them and give to them our best, right?  The guest room is usually pristine and clean, smells good and is very comfortable.  We want our guests to feel valued and respected.  Even...loved!

It was a not-so-warm welcome from the family of man to the Savior, wasn't it?  Not a lot of hospitality from the very ones He created and then became one of, in order to save.

My little friend, Wyatt, made this ornament in his Christian school, shortly before Christmas.  The message is so important as we wind down from Christmas and head into the new year.  Quite a while back I heard a preacher say that if Jesus is not Lord OF all, then He is not Lord AT all.  What that preacher meant was that Jesus doesn't want to reside merely in a guest room of our spiritual house, but that he wants to permeate all the rooms of our "house".  While that is true, I dislike the statement he made because it sets up an almost impossible standard, especially for those who are considering following Jesus, who are contemplating inviting Him in.  It is a warning that nearly says, "you must be perfect to become a Christian or to follow Christ."  Some will respond, "Well, just forget it then!" Most of us have a drawer or closet in their "house" they would prefer Jesus just keep His nose out of, thank you very much!  We adore the concept of total Lordship, although the consistent practice of it is quite a challenge.

I'm more concerned about those who refuse to let Jesus into their houses at all, those who are like the relatives in Luke 2:7, sending the "infant holy" to the stable.  If we welcome Him into our "guest room", then follow Him by giving Him our best, He then leads us into deeper devotion to Him.  He gently shows us how to let Him become Lord of all our house.  The most urgent question, the one which must be answered first, is this:  "Is there room for Him AT all?"

Innkeepers, I hope each one of you has answered or will answer "yes".

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wreaths and Crowns, Lost and Found

Merry Christmas Eve!

I sincerely hope that you are in the midst of enjoying wonderful Christmas worship services and enjoying time with family and friends.  Yesterday evening, Hubs and I attended a "rockin' " Christmas concert and today we celebrated Christmas with the Hood side of our family circle. Tonight, we attended our church's Christmas Eve service with our precious sons and then had dinner at the home of dear friends.  Tomorrow, we have plans to celebrate with the Dalton circle.  All of this reminds me of the incredible goodness of my Savior.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 KJV

The other day I was thinking about wreaths, Christmas wreaths to be exact, and pondering why we hang wreaths on our doors at Christmastime.  I don't know the "official" reason, but there is special meaning for me in the circular shape of a Christmas wreath.

Circles are marvelous things.  They have no beginning and no end.  Circles remind me of the eternality of our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, who came to Earth as our Savior on that very first Christmas.

Angels are often pictured with circular halos.  I wonder if the circular shape is any accident?
Crowns are circular and an integral part of Christmas although they are not a traditional Christmas symbol.  They are for me, at least, and here's why.

Our Savior "laid aside His crown so that we could be found".  Those words are from a Christmas song our church choir sang last year.  They also remind me of the old Southern hymn, "What Wondrous Love is This".

Christmas is so unsatisfying if celebrated as an isolated event and/or if celebrated as "the beginning". God had no beginning, nor will He have any end.  Christmas Eve, the night He was born as a human, was simply one of the events in His eternal plan, a marvelous plan conceived before He invented Time.  So yes, we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, even as we reflect on "the rest of the story".

That spiritual, eternal crown was laid aside in eternity past.  A crown of thorns was placed on His head as He headed toward the conclusion of earthly ministry.  And, after He returned to Heaven He picked His crown up again.  He'll be wearing it when He returns to Earth to reign as the One Isaiah calls the Prince of Peace.

"So that we could be found"... Are you lost? Have you felt lost today?  (I have.)

In Christian-ese those are two very different questions.  The first really means, "have you decided to give yourself to Christ, to become a Christian, to follow Him, to take Him as your Savior by accepting His finished work on your behalf"?  If not, in the Christian parlance, you are "lost".  But, even those who have been "found", saved by His marvelous grace, can "feel lost" when the various crises of life overwhelm them.  That's the way I felt late this afternoon.  And, how I felt is a mere flicker compared to the conflagration a friend felt today when he lost his wife, or when another friend called tonight to ask for intercessory prayer.

Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace

Jesus didn't just come to Earth as a baby to be our "fire insurance", our "one hit wonder".  For sure, apart from Him we cannot know God.  But, no, He came also to be our Magnificent Everything ... now, in the middle of our messes, Christmas or otherwise. Thank God!  One of my beloved asked me the other day (incredulously):  "Do you really think God cares about the minor troubles of one middle-aged woman?!"  "Yes", I replied.  "Yes, He does."  Because He loved and loves me.  He loved me enough to lay it all down then, and He loves me still, and forever.

1 What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.
3 To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM -
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.
4 And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.

Through eternity, I'll sing on.

Praise the Lord!  And, MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Fix Is In

Today I learned that one of my beloved ones received some disheartening news.  He is discouraged about it.  I wish that I could "fix things" for him in this situation.  It hurts my heart to see him suffer, even though some of it is of his own making.  Especially since that is the case...

When I was a child my daddy would sometimes get a "switch" (a small tree branch for you uninitiated out there) and give me "a switchin'".  I never wanted it, always deserved it (being quite the headstrong child) and still remember it, all these days later.  The sting of the switch was short-lived, but there is one thing about those occasions that lives on in my memory.  My daddy would almost always say, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."

I never believed him then.  In fact, it made me mad, because I thought it a ridiculous statement!  But, as a parent now, I truly understand.  It hurt him to see me suffer, even in that small way.  It hurt his heart more than the sting of the hickory switch hurt my little, scrawny legs.

When Adam and Eve so horribly messed things up for all mankind in the Garden of Eden, don't you know it hurt God's heart terribly, even though He knew they were going to do it?  And, don't you know that He said to Himself, "One of these days I'm gonna fix that."  In fact, He proclaimed that He would, as early as Genesis 3:15.

Many, at Christmas, find the seasonal celebrations unbearable because they have been separated from loved ones.  Sometimes a loved one has died, for instance.  When man sinned, a horrible breach occurred between God and man.  The pain we feel when separated from a loved one is only a taste of the pain God felt when our sin destroyed the fellowship He had formerly enjoyed with mankind.  Oh how He must have grieved that loss...after all, our race was created for fellowship with Him.   And, we had so broken, so blemished that relationship.  Not even "a switchin' " could fix it.

When it was time for Jesus to be born, do you think God may have said something like, "Finally, the time is now right for the ultimate, total solution to be given!"  All those centuries between Eden and Bethlehem, God interacted with mankind in various ways, knowing that only one way could fully reconcile all mankind to Him.  Jesus' birth was the commencement, in our time-bound world, of that eternal plan.

I watched a good, but weird, movie today.  A friends of many decades and I get together every now and then for a meal.  Today, it was a movie and a meal.  Anyway, the movie was weird in that there were aliens (weirdness assured when aliens are involved).  Beyond that, though, there was an aspect of the movie in which Time was fluid.  Time was not the linear, orderly, irrevocable thing to which we are accustomed, to which we are bound in this earthly life.

God is not bound by Time.  For God - - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - - the "fix was in" before creation occurred.  Before Time was created, God had decided "I'm gonna fix that."  At Advent, we celebrate The Fix that came, as we anticipate each year the birth of our Savior, Christ, the Lord.  I'm so glad He came and made things right.

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Galatians 4:4-6 KJV

Hallelujah!  The "fix" is in!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Pretty Packages

This time of year Facebook is full of children in their Christmas clothes, posing with Santa and so forth.  They are as cute as can be.  Today, I saw a picture of a group of adults in "ugly" Christmas sweaters, as that was their workplace's "mandate"  for this Monday before Christmas.   Our clothes and in some sense our bodies, are only so much "packaging" to give visibility to the soul encased inside.

Today I spent a lot of time wrapping packages.  I had put it off as long as I could!  Some folks spend a lot of time on their gift-wrapping, but I sort of approach it in "git 'er done" mode.  My approach is to more disguise than to beguile.

Speaking of beguiling, I'm sure you have probably attended what is commonly called a "white elephant exchange", one of those parties (usually Christmas) where you bring a cheap and ridiculous gift to a party.  Participants choose a "mystery gift" from the pile of gifts and well...when the pretty packaging comes off, sometimes you are left with things as crazy and useless as one leg of a mannequin.  (Yes, that really did happen.) . I have noticed that, often, the prettier the package the worse the gift!

The Bible tells us that was not true of God's greatest gift to us, Jesus.

No human alive now truly knows what Jesus really looked like.  I saw a television special on the Shroud of Turin a while back where the scientists working with the Shroud (assuming it truly was the burial cloth of Jesus Christ) were able to recreate the appearance of the man's face which thousands of years ago lay under it. Then, there's that book/movie Heaven Is For Real, in which the little boy who died and came back to life told his parents about Jesus' appearance.

Don't you know that Jesus' physical appearance would serve only to distract us today? Regardless of his appearance, we would be prone to focus more on his visual appearance than on His message of salvation.  The Bible prophetically speaks of him in Isaiah 53:2 , where we read that His physical appearance was nothing special.
 "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."  
The chapter goes on to describe how Jesus would be scourged and eventually crucified.  So, it is unclear to me if verse 2 is describing Jesus at the time of His arrest and horrible torture, or just describing his manly physical appearance in general.

Regardless, He was, and is, God in human form.  And, His "packaging" is largely irrelevant.  We are promised that, when we go to be with Him in heaven that "we will see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).  I don't think, though, that it will be what our eyes see that will tell us, "That's Him!"  But, rather, it will be our hearts that bear witness, our hearts that recognize Him in that day.

I wonder if we will get to ask Him some day what it was like to veil His majesty and to clothe Himself in flesh....It would not have mattered if God the Father had chosen an "Adonis", the most handsome package of flesh imaginable, to house His Son, the second Person of the Godhead.  All flesh pales in comparison to His glory and His beauty.

Yesterday, the Hubster accompanied me to a nearby town where I got once again the tremendous privilege of singing Part 1 of Handel's The Messiah in a "sing-along".  You just bring your copy of the score, pay your admission, sit in the right section and get blessed by the chamber orchestra, soloists and choruses of this masterwork.  The first one we "plebes" got to sing - - - there were approximately 500 of us - - - was "And the Glory of the Lord".1  The text G.F. Handel chose is from Isaiah 40:5 (KJV) - -

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Luke, in his gospel, quotes this verse in relation to Jesus' baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended onto Jesus in the form of a dove.  But, really, the glory of the Lord was revealed when Jesus put on flesh and carried out the will of His Father by being born as a baby boy.  Everything Jesus did in His earthly tenure brought the Father glory, and God's glory will be further revealed when Jesus comes again.

Yep, that's glory no packaging, pretty or plain, can ever begin to contain.



Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Love Letter

The past few days I've been working on our Christmas card and letters.  I sort of get carried away with this task every year.  It is a multi-day task that goes like this:

November - - move Heaven and Earth to get a decent family picture...somehow.
(This year, my sister-in-law and her daughter helped greatly with that task.  Thanks Linda and Val!)

Find a deal on the cards and hopefully one with a Christian message.  Order and receive.

Put cards in envelopes.

Find the Christmas-y return address labels that the charities send us.  Apply, hopefully straight.

Write the Christmas letter.  Print it on the fancy stationery.  Again, hopefully straight.  (My score was about 60% of them this year.  The printer and I had a go-round.)

Fold the letters appropriately.  (This year I was thinking our envelopes were squarish instead of rectangularish - - - I can't explain this lapse - - and so folded the letters squarishly.)
Fold letters again.

Stuff letters into some of the envelopes.  Those who are close family and/or who know us well already know about our year's happenings and don't wish to be reminded of them, I'm quite sure!

Address cards.

Give cards to husband to apply Christmas stamps and mail.  (Note: if you wait too late, the Christmas stamps will have sold out.  So, this really should be done in November.)

Collect picture cards from other dear ones and post on side of double oven's kitchen cabinet to enjoy all year.

Yes, that is why I go to ALL the trouble described above.  I love to greet far-flung loved ones and to hear "glad tidings" from them in response.  Looking at their picture cards all year is a blessing and a reminder of the goodness of God.

So, tomorrow, the 17th of December, I'll flex my fingers and start addressing.
With joy, delight, and anticipation!


WHO gets a Christmas letter and just throws it aside without reading it?  Not many, I'd guess.
I was thinking, though, about how God sent His love letter to us, in the human form of His Son Jesus, and how many of us poor, lonely people just push Him aside or throw Him away, not realizing the transcendent love we have rejected.

No matter how precious and special or funny or sad our Christmas letters are to each other, they pale in comparison to God's revelation of Himself to us.  And, so often, we set His message, revealed in Scripture, aside.  Or, we push it to the back of the line... back so far, we don't even get to it in our whirlwind days, our harum-scarum days, at all.

Here are excerpts from the greatest Christmas love letter of all time:

"And this shall be a sign unto you, Ye shall find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger..."  (Luke 2:12)

"And you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."  (Matthew 1:21)

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."  (John 3:16-17)

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
He sent His Son to us below
His love so great for us to know
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Messy, Missed(?) Advent

During this season of Advent a curious thing has occurred:
my plans for Advent meditations here have crashed and burned.
If you have been wondering where I've been and why I have not blogged,
there's your answer.
I'm not sick
or kidnapped
or reprobate.
Yet....somewhere along the Advent way, I've lost my way ... in this seasonal celebration.

I can't fully explain it.
Part of the problem has been my technology.
About three weeks ago, my Mac had a nervous breakdown.  That's what it looked like on the screen.
The official explanation (2 weeks later) is that its graphics card, logic board, la la la la la.....
At any rate, praise God, the Apple store fixed it FOC (that's "free of charge" for some of you).

The other thing is that Tozer and I got a spiritual divorce.
This Advent devotional just did not move me to deeper devotion at all.
I'm not blaming A.W. Tozer; I'm sure it's my fault as well.
As it is, I can't even find that book now.  It is probably under Grandma Lois' recipe book.....

Such has been the way of my Advent.
For those of you who were hoping for profound, moving Advent meditations here at RDM blog,
I'm sorry.
If you will go back to the Advent seasons of 2014 and 2015, you will find what you seek.

As for me, I am going to try anew.

I found this prayer on the internet, a prayer that deeply pegs what I'm feeling at the moment.

If you feel like you have missed Advent thus far, maybe it will bless you too.

Halfway through Advent - have I missed it?
Dear Jesus,
It's halfway through Advent and I'm not sure what happened. I really wanted to make this a reflective and calm season, preparing for your birth and pondering how you came into this world in such a stunningly humble way. But it's so busy and I'm distracted and sometimes even short-tempered with those I love the most. Where are you in THAT?
I am discouraged and wish I could start over. But as I sit here in the rare moment of silence, I contemplate your birth. In a bed of straw, with the smell of manure everywhere. It's a mess in that stable ... and come to think of it, my life is a little messy, too. I suddenly see that it is not just into the mess of the stable but into my mess that you enter the world. You came into a humble place and that humility is often where I live my life - feeling guilty or distracted and wishing I were a better person. But if I stop thinking of myself and focus on you, I realize that there you are, waiting to love me, even though I have so many unfulfilled good intentions about prayer, so many desires of how to change this fleeting Advent season.
I can begin Advent today and make this season deeper by making room in my heart for you. I can take just a moment before I get out of bed in the morning and feel the empty place in my life I so often fill with my busy-ness. It is there I need you the most. Come, Lord Jesus. Come into that dark and lonely spot in my heart. You know what my needs are more than I do. Let me feel your love. If I only carry that thought with me each day, it will prepare me for Christmas.
Thank you, Jesus. It's not too late. You are waiting to enter my life today, where ever I let you in. Help me to open my heart in these remaining days.
Dear Jesus, be the center of it all .... all that remains of this Advent and Christmas, all that remains of this year, of my life.  Be the center! Amen.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Our Plans (Advent, Day 11)

For the past two days I have been on a sort of mini-vacay with a friend and both our moms in Sevier County, TN.  Several weeks ago, we younger ladies had planned this brief get-away with our moms, to enjoy them amid the local festivities of the season.   The Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area is in the Great Smokey Mountains, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  Over the past several decades it has been a favorite tourist destination.  When I was a child, it was sort of a secret.  Not many folks outside of the South knew about it, nor did they travel to the area because there was not a lot to do except to relax, fish, talk to the natives, etc.  Today, driving down Parkway, I marveled at all the entertainment options available in Pigeon Forge.  In fact, I made the comment that you could stay here for a week and still not see all the shows or enjoy more than a smidgen of the restaurants, see all the fancy exhibits, etc.  It reminds me somewhat of Vegas (a place I visited once and never plan to see again), though on a more wholesome scale.

We had a bit of an adventure getting to Pigeon Forge yesterday.  We attempted to gain access by driving "over the mountain" - - which is the route folks from my mother's area have taken for many years.  The GPS exhorted us over and over again to take a different (longer) route.  We glibly ignored her.  (Mother said later that we should apologize!). Eventually, at the base of the mountain, we encountered flashing signs telling us the road ahead was closed.  What a bunch of dummies we were!  Despite the signs given, we were determined we knew better!  Our stubbornness and pride lengthened our trip by an hour and a half, as we were forced to take the "around the mountain" route, which eventually brought us into the Sevier county area from the other direction.

The New Testament is full of stories where folks misread the signs, ignoring God by making their own selfish plans.  King Herod is one example of this.  He did his best to manipulate the wise men and, later, to attempt to manipulate the will of God by murdering all infant boys under 2 years of age.  He was sure he "knew better".  Another example is the Jewish teachers and leaders of Jesus' day.  They were absolutely certain they "had Jesus pegged".  They could hardly have been more mistaken.

The cynics of this world who say with disdain, "Who cares about the fables and fairy tales of the Bible" are falling into a similar pit.  Tozer describes these as "big, challenging words" from "puny, empty hearts and minds".  Folks who puff out their chests and (figuratively speaking) shake their fists at God fail to see that all of us human beings are in the hands of God, in the final analysis, whether we are willing to admit it or not.  

There's a striking, appalling juxtaposition currently in this local area.  Less than 10 miles from where we are staying, amid the glitz and glamour, the bright lights and man-made monuments, lie ruins of blackened buildings, charred woods, smoldering ashes of the now-crippled town of Gatlinburg.  Just a few days ago near this bustling tourist destination conditions were ripe for "a perfect storm".... foliage that had not seen rain for several weeks and high winds.  Wildfires were started (by arson, it is believed) and the high winds quickly had them raging out of control.  Much of the town and surrounding area was devastated, lives and millions of dollars worth of property destroyed.  

We were turned back from crossing the mountain as we drove to Sevier county yesterday, for this very reason.  Today, we again tried to drive into Gatlinburg, but this time from Pigeon Forge - - - same result.  The town is blocked off all around, until the residents and business owners can begin to recover from the disasters they have endured and continue to endure.

Tozer tells a story about the ruler of Germany during World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm.  The Kaiser heard a sermon on the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.  Greatly offended, Wilhelm spoke to the minister after the service:  "I never want to hear that kind of a sermon again!  Such an event is not at all in keeping with the plans we have for the future and the glory of our Fatherland!"

Oh!  How we tend to make ourselves big....and God small.

The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, 
and He will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 11:15

He came once as a baby, over 2020 years ago, born into the humblest of circumstances.  He lived a perfect life, allowed his own excruciating death and then defeated Death by rising from the dead, despite all the hordes of Hell brought to bear against Him.  He is God.  He is flawless.  He is coming again.  On that changeless fact we can depend.  When that day comes, we had better be ready, because it will come more suddenly than a forest fire raging out of control.  And, there will be absolutely nothing we can do to stop it.

Father, during this time of terrible tragedy for the people of Sevier county and especially Gatlinburg, TN, please restore what the Destroyer has taken, replenish what the locusts have eaten, what the fires have taken.  Show Yourself mighty in this, Lord!  Be very near and precious to them, bind up the broken-hearted and do the miraculous among them, for Jesus' sake.  Amen.


Tozer, A.W. From Heaven, pp. 49-522016. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Nearest and Dearest (Advent: Day 9)

I had to laugh at the POTUS-elect the other day.  He visited Ohio and spoke to employees of the Carrier Company, the folks who make heat pumps, and such.  During the course of his speech he said something like, "I have a secret to share with you. Don't tell anybody now!  My new secretary of defense is going to be..."  What makes this laughable is that, of course, when you tell several hundred people a "secret", with press present, it's not going to remain a secret very long!  That's not the way most of us operate. If we have precious news to share, we share it with our "nearest and dearest" first.

We live on the side of history after the first advent (coming) of Jesus to Earth.  So, it is a bit of a stretch for Christians to know what it was like for the Jews to look for, long for, their Messiah, except as we Christians can do in regards to Jesus' second advent, still in the future.  (I wrote about this in my last post.)

Two of the most intriguing people in the Bible are found in Luke 2.  One of the best things about Luke was his attention to detail.  None of the other gospel writers could compare to him in that respect.  Both of these "minor" characters were fervently looking for Messiah as "the first Christmas" approached.

Our story begins in verse 22, when Mary and Joseph are found taking the baby Jesus to the Temple in order to fulfill the requirements of the Law for newborn boys.  There, they encounter Simeon (who will be the subject of a future post) and Anna, our heroine for today.

36There was also a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having been married to her husband for seven years until his death. 37She had lived as a widow since then for eighty-four years. She never left the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment, she came up to them and began to give thanks to God and to speak about the child to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

According to Luke 2:36-38, Anna lost her husband to death, after only 7 years of marriage. She never remarried.  Anna was OLD.  Most Jewish women marry in their mid-teens. Assuming she married at 15 and became a widow at 22, she would have been 106 years old at the time Jesus was brought to the Temple for the first time.  106!! That is "ancient", even by today's standards!  For whatever the reason, she lived in the Temple, most likely performing some sort of tasks assigned to older widows.1

Anna's close proximity to the Temple, however, is not what earned her the title of "prophetess".  (As I mentioned in yesterday's post, she is the only woman given that title in the New Testament.)  Being "in church" a lot is not what makes a person a Christian either...Verse 37 tells us that she spent much time in fasting and in prayer.  When a person spends that much time seeking God, communing with Him, they are more likely to receive revelations from Him.  That's not to say she EARNED the gift of prophecy, because it is a gift from God, given at His discretion.  But, she exercised her gift with tremendous zeal.

And, the "proof is in the pudding", as the saying goes.  Anna walked up and immediately recognized who Jesus was.  If we assumed that she knew Mary and Joseph we would very likely be drawing a false conclusion.  The Scriptures do not say she knew them, after all.  Whom she DID know was Jesus, even though she had never met him!  Her reaction to meeting Jesus "in the flesh" was to praise God aloud, to thank Him and to tell everyone around her about Him.

Do you "get" that Anna knew, even more surely than Mary and Joseph did, who Jesus truly was?

Don't you think that Anna must have been one of God's "nearest and dearest"?  Even though she is given a mere 3 verses in the Bible, what a wonderful testimony those verses contain!  In his classic commentary on the book of Luke, Alfred Plummer said that Anna was the first in a long line of prophetic disciples who would speak about Jesus to all who were fervently looking for the redemption of Israel.2

In Jesus, Anna glimpsed the future, a future as bright as the promises of God!



2   Alfred Plummer, Luke, International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1905), p. 71.

Mary, Mary (Advent Day 8)

I'll tell you a curious thing:  Baptists don't hear many sermons on Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As a piece of anecdotal evidence (one woman's experience), I've heard more sermons about Mary of Bethany than about Mary, Jesus' mother.  I've been pondering the reason for this and what I've deduced is that we are afraid to talk much about Jesus' earthly mother because some religions have venerated her far past what the Bible proclaims.

Some have, in fact, declared that she was sinless and that she remained a virgin after Jesus' birth.1  I can find nothing in the Bible to substantiate much of what we might call Marian tradition or Marian lore.  But, that doesn't mean that we should ignore her in our Advent meditations.  What do we find in Scripture (and only the Holy Scriptures) about Mary, the mother of Jesus?

Some of the best information comes to us from the gospel of Luke.  In Luke 1:30 we read that Mary was "highly favored" by God.  Who can know the mind of God?  But, obviously, she was a very special young woman.  God had literally chosen her among all women to give birth to Jesus.  Beyond that, we have no idea what caused God the Father to choose Mary for this role.  Of course, her free will was not negated.  In Luke 1:38 we read how she agreed to take on this role.

First, though, she asks an intelligent question.  "How can this happen, since I am a virgin?" (1:34) Most of us, myself included, would likely have been so stupefied by an angel appearing to us every sensible thought would have left our heads.  Not Mary.

After receiving a satisfactory, though not fully understood, answer to that question, Mary subjects herself to the will of her God.  "Be it done unto me according to your word." (1:38)

The angel, Gabriel, tells Mary that her much older and formerly barren cousin, Elizabeth, is now six months pregnant.  Mary immediately determines to go see Elizabeth, since the two of them have a miraculous pregnancy in common. Elizabeth must have seemed like a harbor in a storm, to Mary, who could have thought, "Finally!  Someone who will understand!"  It is possible that Mary came from a family of some means, since she was able to a long trip from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah on her own.   It is likely Mary was accompanied by servants to make this trip.  Under no circumstances would she have been allowed to make the trip totally on her own.  Still, not a "shrinking violet", was Mary!

After hearing Elizabeth's greeting, Mary speaks what Luke records as the Magnificat, which has been the subject matter of many a gorgeous piece of choral music over the centuries.  The Magnificat contains several references to Old Testament scripture, which lets us know that Mary was an educated young woman.  It is also the response of a mature follower of Jehovah.

One other notable characteristic about Mary:  she thought deeply.  We know this from the Scripture that tells us she "pondered" these events in her heart.  She was a person who didn't act impulsively, but rather, thought things through.  More important than that - - - she was not omniscient.  She didn't know or understand everything at once.  Her faith was grown and cultivated over the course of her life, much as it can be with each of us who submit to the will of our Savior.

For example, there is nothing to indicate that Elizabeth had had prior warning of Mary's visit.  Their greetings to each other bear all the hallmarks of a surprise, on Elizabeth's part.  No doubt, Mary was encouraged and comforted by Elizabeth's words of greeting.  God used the prophetic utterance the Holy Spirit gave to Elizabeth as a confirmation for Mary.

Well, I had not intended this Advent series to turn into a Marian study, but just wanted to reflect on the mother of our Savior today.  Honestly, I've become somewhat disenchanted with my Tozer study aid.  It's not Tozer's fault....but, the editors who picked and chose from his writings have left me restless.

Tomorrow I think we'll look at Anna, the only woman in the New Testament to be called a prophetess.  :)



Friday, December 2, 2016

Which Advent? (Day 6)

The word "Advent" means "the arrival of a notable person".  In the case of the Christian church, it means the arrival of Jesus Christ.  And, this "arrival" usually refers to His birth, which some refer to as His "first Advent".  Interestingly, in today's Advent meditation from Tozer, he focuses on Christ's second Advent, right here in early December.  I found that a curious focus, until he hammered me.

The essential point Tozer makes is that celebrating Christ's first Advent was important to the early Church, but the anticipation of His second Advent (sometimes called His second coming) far eclipsed the first in their hearts.  Why, do you suppose?  In modern day Christianity, the birth of Christ receives far more attention...

There's certainly nothing wrong with anticipating the celebration of Christ's birth.  Doing so, meditating on prophecies of His birth, celebrating the amazing work God did in sending Christ to us, adds richness to this special season.  Tozer doesn't take anything away from that when he states that the return of Christ is "all but dead among us".  Do you believe that to be true today?  Is it true in your life?  I had to ask myself if it is true in mine; I didn't like the answer.

Members of the early Church expected the Lord to return to Earth during their lifetimes, at any moment, in fact. They were mistaken about the time of His return, but they were not mistaken in their attitude to expect it at any moment.  (Were they?)

Tozer poses several reasons for why the longing that burned in the breasts of the early believers seems to have "burned itself out" today.
1.  A relational love for Jesus Christ has been replaced with a detached, contractual obligation.  Love will carry you where mere duty never will.  Unfortunately, modern-day Christendom has overemphasized the "duty" of faith so much that the adoration of the Savior has fallen away. The drudgery of "taking up the cross" in discipleship has squeezed out the beauty of the One who died upon it.
2.  Conversely, many Christians are so comfortable in their cocoons of this life that they have little desire to leave them. This is especially true in parts of the world where faith in Jesus Christ exacts no extreme personal cost.  As long as we are healthy, happy and able to practice a "safe faith", a faith that can veer off into mere "religious entertainment", why should we forsake it for a world about which we know little?  Why should we long to be with Christ, face-to-face?
3.  And then, some just frankly don't really believe He will return at all.  "Certainly, if such an advent would occur, it won't occur for years and years....far after our generation is long gone..." Right?

A gospel song we used to sing when I was a child was called, "Will Jesus Find Us Watching"?  I've reproduced the lyrics at the bottom of this post.  I can't recall a single, modern-day song sung in church today about the second Advent, actually...can you?  Leave the title in the comments section of this post, if you can.

I don't know about you, but I always find thoughts of Jesus' second Advent very personally convicting.  "Am I loving Him as He deserves?  Does my love for Him translate into spending my days WELL?"  How would our daily lives be different, if we truly were looking for Jesus' return any day now? Would priorities re-align?  I'm quite sure they would.


  Tozer, A.W. From Heaven. 2016. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Meaning Behind the Merry

Have you ever watched the Jimmy Kimmel show, which is on TV after the 11:00 p.m. news?  I admit to watching at least a few minutes of it, some nights.  He has a segment often in which he sends staffers out in to the streets of Hollywood, where they ask passers-by about this-that-or-the-other. There have been times when the poor, unsuspecting folks have been presented with a "news item" that was completely untrue, but it sounded so plausible that the people faked an understanding of it to avoid looking ignorant.

I would love for The Jimmy Kimmel Show to do one of these segments, asking folks about the meaning of Christmas.  My guess is that the answers would amaze.  Even decades ago Tozer was writing about the distance most Americans had traveled in their departure from the truth about Christmas.  Oh, if you asked them, they would say the correct things.  But, what they focused on during the Christmas season would perhaps not line up with their statements.  This is something with which I constantly struggle.

Do you know how magicians are able to accomplish many of their "magic tricks"?  One indispensable element of their routine is to get you to focus on something unimportant so that you won't see the crucial action taking place elsewhere.  Satan uses this same trick in our lives, with the Christmas season being no exception.  Tozer2 described it as "magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import".  (I started to use that in today's blog post title but then realized no one would read it!)

There's the shopping and the baking and the decorating (oh, the decorating!)  There's the rehearsing for special events, attending special events, cleaning up after special events!  THEN there's the church stuff - - - and you feel SO guilty if you don't throw yourself whole-hog into that!  The guilt can begin to pile up so much that the whole season is tainted.

As Tozer warned, it is so important that we don't miss the "meaning behind the merry", that we don't fail to celebrate the central truth of Christmas which is this:  "God came to earth in the form of the baby Jesus, who continued to grow in grace and truth until He accomplished what He came to earth to do.  Will you believe this by faith, receive and worship Him as Savior and Lord?"

The rest of the Christmas fa-la-la-la-la is just...frosting on the cake. Now, this gal loves frosting!  It can add so much flavor to the cake.  But, who only eats the frosting?  No one I've ever known....

So, it's December 1st.  This thang is just getting revved up.  Let's make ourselves a promise that we won't get so distracted by tinsel that we miss out on the treat, the birth of our Savior.

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol that says it best?  I think it might be this one:
(Note how the key phrase is repeated 3 times for emphasis....)

"Sing choirs of angels!  Sing in exultation!
Sing, all you citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest!
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord"1

"Great is the mystery of godliness!" (1 Tim. 3:16)


1  Adeste Fidelis "O Come All Ye Faithful" (traditional carol)
2  Tozer, A.W. From Heaven. 2016. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

On a Starry Night

For whatever the reason, I can vividly remember as a young child being fascinated with the heavens at night.  My paternal grandmother, Granny Weezie, used to take me outside on bright, moonlit nights and would say, "I see the moon.  The moon sees me.  God bless the moon and God bless me."  The picture at the top of this post is of The Pleiades, otherwise known as The Seven Sisters, one of my favorite constellations.  There is a free app you can get on your mobile device now called "Skyview". When the app is on, you can aim your phone in any direction and the app will, after computing your location, show you what the sky looks like anywhere, even on the other side of our planet!  Amazing.

I imagine the tranquil shepherds "abiding in the fields" were similarly mesmerized by the night sky. Night after night, they watched the crawl of constellations from east to west, as simultaneously, they guarded their sheep flocks.  The ripping of the veil separating Heaven from Earth on the night of Christ's birth was something they never anticipated.

Perhaps some of them gazed up at the stars and wondered the same thing as the little boy who wandered into the school office, only to be met by a very high counter over which he could not see. Stretching his hands up over the edge he asked, "Is anybody up there?"  Do you suppose the shepherds wondered the same?

After the angels' announcement on the night of Jesus' birth, the shepherds had no doubt!  The unavoidable reality of God exploded across the night sky.  Damning the consequences, they hurriedly left their flocks unattended in the fields, in order to go see this miracle which had come to pass.

Have you ever received something you felt you truly didn't deserve?  Perhaps it was a second chance. Perhaps it was someone's favor.  Don't you know those shepherds wondered why an angel, followed by many more messengers from God's angel army, appeared to them?  Why them?

Perhaps the answer is in the angel's message (Luke 2:10 NIV)

10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 

ALL the people....The angels did not appear to a king or even to rich men.  They appeared to those people on the lowest rungs of society's ladder.  Do you think our all-wise God's choice of them was any accident?

We are all equally unworthy of the grace of God, the gift of God, that first Gift of Christmas. Reading the story of the shepherds none of us can say, "Oh, well, God's salvation is only for 'the deserving', the successful, the smart, the wealthy."  His grace was announced to the most lowly so that all of us can know for certain His matchless Gift came for ALL people, even us.

In the New Testament Greek, the beautiful word "euangelizomai" (εὐαγγελίζομαι) is rendered into English as "I bring good news"!

Good news indeed!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Complete Package

On Fire!

An almost-daily, expository, Christian, devotional blog, featuring a 10-minute read and, in early posts, also a 5-10 minute video synopsis.

I blogged recently about a "burning bush" in my neighborhood, a Japanese maple which, as I walked toward it at sunset, appeared to be on fire.  You can read that blog post at the link above if you choose, as it relates to today's post. This morning, I was continuing to study John 1:14, because this is Tozer's 3rd day on that particular verse (a fact which both causes me spiritual consternation but also is a healthy spiritual discipline for this ADD girl).  

Continuing to meditate on and study that magnificent verse I came upon these lines from MacLaren's Exposition (which I found at the website):
"What must be the kindred and likeness between Godhood and manhood when into the frail vehicle of our humanity that wondrous treasure can be poured; when the fire of God can burn in the bush of our human nature, and that nature not be consumed? So it has been. ‘In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily".  (Emphasis mine)

The image of that  neighborhood "burning bush" returned to my mind, and I found that the image and the thought of Moses kneeling in worship, shoes off, at the burning bush of Exodus 3 helped me to better understand the Incarnation.  I was reminded of that burning bush of Moses' in the way of a "type" of the Messiah to come, Jesus Christ.  Moses marveled at how the bush itself, though paltry in comparison to the fire that fully indwelt it, remained an unharmed bush!

In the Day 3 meditation, Tozer focuses on the two words used to describe Jesus Christ in John 1:14.  As the Old Testament bush was "full" of God on that day, so Jesus Christ, in His human body, contained ALL the fullness of God!  He was, and is, the "complete package", all of God.  In his inspired attempt to describe the indescribable, John described Jesus as being full of grace and truth.

Why was He full of grace?  Because in His interactions with all of His creation, God acts with grace.  He IS grace, one of the components of His divine nature.  And, because the fallen creatures to which He came were in such desperate need of nothing more!  That is the starting point of Christian theological truth...that we are thoroughly lost apart from Jesus Christ and in no way capable of cleaning ourselves up to reach God's perfect, holy standard.

And so, He poured Himself into the vessel of a human zygote, embryo, fetus, newborn, infant.  Baby Jesus, Infant King of Kings.  Even as a youngling, earthly shepherds and kings bowed before Him.  The Divine shone forth through His baby flesh to discerning spirit eyes, even then.

How have you benefitted from Jesus Christ's magnanimous grace, that bottomless pit of goodness?

Even the lost and unbelieving benefit to some extent, whether they are conscious of it and give credit where due, or not.  Physical life is a grace.  That it continues from day-to-day is yet another gift of grace.  Another day to find Him or to serve Him is still another...Surely, if you are honest, you don't believe that you have somehow "earned" such blessings, as a result of your own inherent goodness?  As Tozer says, "Let us remember this: everything God does is by grace, for no man, no creature, no being deserves anything.  Salvation is by grace, the creation is by grace - - - all that God does is by grace and every human being has received of His fullness."


Tozer, A.W. From Heaven. 2016. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bridging the Gap - - Advent Day 2

For some reason when I turned on the TV in the bedroom this morning, the channel was set to The Blaze.  This was curious to me because I had not been watching it last night, nor does my husband watch that channel.  The first image was of a very bundled-up-in-coats Glenn Beck in what appeared to be a foreign place.  He went on to explain about how the country of Slovakia is helping those who are unable to help themselves...taking in Christian refugees fleeing Iraq.  When few other places will do so, this tiny country in the European Union is opening its arms to rescue these Christians, who have lost everything except their lives and their faith.  They were willing to lose everything for the sake of their Savior.  And, Slovakia has taken them in, demonstrating the love of God.  Glenn stated that there are families willing to take in these Iraqi Christians here in America, but that our government will not allow it.  This makes me ashamed to be an American.  God will richly bless Slovakia for their care of His own.  Wait and see.

Well, it is Day Two of the Advent Season.  Tozer's(1) meditation today focuses on the amazing mystery of God, the Limitless One, limiting Himself for our sake. Why did God do this?  And, why did He do this for humankind but not for other created beings? He did not do it for fallen angels, after all, and we are told in Hebrews that man is "a little lower than the angels"...  We can neither know the mind of God nor can we fathom the depths of His love.  The apostle John (3:16) tells us that it was because God "so loved" the world that He did this.

If you are a parent or if you become one you know (or will) that one of the most painful things in life is to be at odds with your child.  When I was growing up there was an expression, "the generation gap".  Basically, it referred to the societal difference between the older generations and the younger.  But, at a more fundamental level in the 1960s, it was about a younger generation rejecting the moral code of the older.  If you are part of a family that has not experienced this, then you are highly favored and greatly blessed.  The pain is tremendous and especially so when the children reject the parents' Christian faith.

Essentially, God saw this unbridgeable gap between Himself and his creation, mankind, a gap that the man had caused through his rejection of God's way; and, His pain was unbearable.  Knowing that the only way to reconcile His beloved creatures (us) to Himself was for Him to become one of us and make the supreme blood sacrifice, He did it.  He, who can do anything, did the unthinkable.

As the apostle Paul exclaimed when pondering this truth: "Great is the mystery of godliness!" (1 Timothy 3:16). Here's the full verse:  

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

In closing, let's consider the words of John Calvin in regards to this world-changing event in the history of mankind:

"What is there in us? If we cast our eyes upon God, and then enter into a comparison, alas! shall we come near this highness which surmounteth the heavens? Nay, rather can we have any acquaintance with it? For there is nothing hit rottenness in us; nothing but sin and death. Then let the living God, the well-spring of life, the everlasting glory, and the infinite power, come; and not only approach to us and our miseries, our wretchedness, our frailty, and to this bottomless pit of all iniquity that is in men; let not only the majesty of God come near this, but he joined to it, and made one with it, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! What is Jesus Christ? God and man! But how God and man? What difference is there between God and man?
We know that there is nothing at all in our nature but wretchedness and misery; nothing but a bottomless pit of stench and infection; and yet in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see the glory of God who is worshipped by angels, and likewise the weakness of man; and that He is God and man. Is not this a secret and hidden thing, worthy to be set out with words, and likewise enough to ravish our hearts! The very angels could never have thought upon it, as here observed by St. Paul. Seeing it pleased the Holy Ghost to set forth the goodness of God, and show us for how precious a jewel we ought to esteem it, let us beware on our part that we be not unthankful, and have our minds so shut up, that we will not taste of it, if we cannot thoroughly and perfectly understand it." (2)


(1). Tozer, A.W. From Heaven. 2016. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.

{Please forgive the flaws in today's formatting and so forth.  I am blogging via iPad, since my computer died a quite sudden and complete death yesterday evening.}
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Sunday, November 27, 2016

To Dwell Again

I was idly listening to a couple of entertainers on talk radio this afternoon as I drove home from church.  One of them was telling (true or not...) of a lady who had been a vegetarian for most of her life. Then, one day, she decided while at a coffee house, to try a turkey sandwich.  Now, she's enjoying BBQ!  She said that after one taste of that turkey sandwich, she just can't get enough!

That's the way it is for me with the study of the Word of God.  I have been severely deprived of my Bible study these past few days, due to a home/family project of large magnitude.  As a result, I am starving!

So, here we are, on the first Sunday of Advent which, this year, also happens to be the first day of Advent!  As a Baptist, we don't celebrate Advent the way the more "high church" denominations do; and, I think that's a shame, really.  So, since I love my particular denomination, I just choose to add Advent celebration on in my personal study.  Since beginning this blog, I have used two different Advent devotionals the past two Advents.  The first was from John Piper's "Solid Joys", and the last one was from Ann Voskamp's Advent study: "The Greatest Gift".  Both added a wonderful flavor to meditations on this sacred season.

This year, here in the blog (because in my personal devos) we will be hearing from A.W. Tozer, an early-to-mid-20th century theologian.  Not a Baptist, Tozer was a pastor in a denomination called the Christian and Missionary Alliance (the C&MA).  He wrote several books, including the famous "The Pursuit of God".

Today's Advent meditation concerns God's interactions with mankind, from the time of Adam and Eve until Jesus' birth.  In the Garden of Eden Genesis 3:8 tells us God walked through the Garden. Clearly, He regularly communed with Adam and Eve there freely, in their sinless states before The Fall. After their catastrophic, cataclysmic choice to believe Satan rather than God, everything changed.  God, for thousands of years, no longer "dwelt among", that is lived among, mankind.  It was not until the birth of Jesus our Savior that God once again was for a prolonged time "with us". "And His name shall be called Immanuel, 'God with us'." (Matthew 1:23)  The gospel writers were adamant about this point.  John too, in his gospel, drove the point home:  "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us..."(John 1:14)

In the intervening years, from The Fall to The Incarnation, God appeared to men from time to time. He manifested Himself as various natural phenomena, such as a recurring, guiding cloud or a column of fire (the Shekinah Glory.)  At other times, He took on the form of man briefly (appearing to Abraham and to Moses, to Gideon, Daniel, Jacob and others).

But, when He put on flesh and revealed Himself as The Son, He came to abide with us, to dwell with us forever.  The Son has declared the Father, the Scriptures say in John 1:18.  In the Person of God the Son, Jesus makes manifest all the fullness of God the Father, whom no man has actually seen. We would be unable to bear such radiant majesty and glory.  We so lack the capacity to absorb His greatness that to actually see the Father would utterly destroy us.

"And we beheld His glory...." (John 1:14b)

When the first century folks saw Jesus with their physical eyes, they were looking at God, though very few realized it.  When we 21st century people "see" Jesus with eyes of the spirit, it is being revealed to us then all there is for us humans to know of God.  Jesus gives us as much of God the Father as we can tolerate in our humanness. And, Jesus does this miracle now through the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit.

Yes, today, when we embrace God through the Person of His Son, when we worship Him with the offering of our lives, we are given the Holy Spirit to dwell with us forever.  He seals us as God's own, never more to be separated.  Physical death cannot then separate us from the love of God.  In fact, nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38). Nothing has that power. The Holy Spirit marks us permanently, like with a Sharpie permanent marker.  (If you've ever tried to get Sharpie ink off a surface or out of a fabric you can appreciate the analogy!) Even stronger, greater and more final than a Sharpie is the seal of the Holy Spirit on the soul of the believer in Jesus Christ.

He dwells with us who are His, and we will dwell with Him forever.