Advent: God’s Ways Don’t Always Make Sense

 12-14-11 Matthew 1:18-25 God’s Ways Don’t Always Make Sense

Can you imagine what Joseph must have been feeling? We speak often about how confusing this must have been to Mary, how God must have seen something special in her to chose her to be the mother of the Messiah. It couldn’t have been easy for Joseph either. His reputation was on the line. His life was about to change drastically as well. When he first heard she was with child, he was ready to walk away. What the angel told him surely didn’t make things any easier, and yet he stayed, fulfilled his part.

Has God ever asked you to do something that made no sense at all? When I was a young pastor, wife, and mom, God led me to a church in Wisconsin—a very small church. There was only one member. There would only be six months of salary paid by the district. I would be several states away from family and friends. My husband would have to leave an incredibly stable job. Taking the position made absolutely no sense at all.

We drove home on Sunday after preaching in the morning service. On the way we discussed all the pros and cons and felt like there was no way we could accept the position, but we couldn’t call the district superintendent until Wednesday. Tuesday night there was a missionary service at our church. I was on the platform leading the music and Nelson was in the back with our daughters. The missionary speaker spoke to our questioning hearts as the angel spoke to Joseph. Three times in his message he clearly stated, “God’s ways don’t always make sene.”

Nelson and I gathered our daughters and got into the car without speaking, waiting for the other to break the silence, wondering if the other heard the message as clearly. Finally we both blurted out at the same moment and then burst into a holy mix of laughter and tears. We knew that even though the move made no sense to us, we would soon be moving to Wisconsin. We were so excited to call the district superintendent back!

Is God leading you into something that seems impossible? Does the task He’s called you to appear to make no sense at all? There’s a verse in Isaiah that reminds us, “For my thoughts (God’s) are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways (Isaiah 55:8).” The angel could have reminded Joseph of that or of Solomon’s proverb: there is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 14:12).

Someone very wise once told me that the will of God will not take you where the grace of God cannot keep you. You may not get a spectacular angel dream, or even an amazing missionary speaker, to assure that you can trust God, but His word and promise is still true and you can trust His leading even when by worldly standards it makes no sense.

Advent: Softly and Tenderly


12-13-11 Isaiah 40:1-11 Softly and Tenderly

 I love getting an invitation. Do you? I love invitations to parties, weddings, graduations, showers. I love being invited to a friend’s house. I love being invited out to dinner. I love invitations.

I’m not sure who invented the “hymn of invitation” that typically closes many Christian services, but I know that Billy Graham has been well known for his. He closed his services with the hymn, “Just As I Am.” I worked with an evangelist in Kansas City who always closed his services with “I Surrender All.” While I have always been blessed by those hymns, the hymn that never fails to tug at my heart is, “Softly and Tenderly.” The invitation to “come home” in the chorus of that hymn is like balm to my weary heart.

Living a life away from our spiritual home is a wearisome thing. Trying to function without a moral compass is discouraging and draining. When we are at odds with or arm’s length from the one who knows us best and loves us most life is hard and our hearts yearn for the peace of home. I guess that’s why today’s scripture speaks so much to me.

The prophet describes how the way has been prepared for our God to come to us. Let us do our best to come to Him.

Advent: Me Worry?


12-12-11 Me worry?

Have you ever wondered why trust is so easy about certain things and hard about others? Or how it seems so easy for some and so hard for others. I have a close friend who recently had a biopsy of a questionable spot on her lung. She is still waiting for the results. She is trusting God and believes she has already been healed. I would probably be a wreck, about to have an anxiety attack every time the phone rang.

In the very first church where I was pastor there was a woman I greatly admired and enjoyed. I remember sitting in her kitchen talking while we prepared dinner. I’m not sure of the exact conversation, it may have had to do with our husbands, but I distinctly remember her throwing her hands in the air and declaring that it wasn’t her day to worry. The more I got to know her I realized that there was no day for her to worry because God was truly in control of her every day.

As naïve as I am, I know we can’t take two gulps of God and expect all our anxiety to disappear but there are enough general and specific biblical references that assure me that I can trust God. He not only has my back, he holds my future and he holds me now in this very moment.

My friend who sees the doctor any day now knows this just as my friend who spoke truth and peace into my heart so many years ago did. And today I will choose to believe it too.

How about you?

Advent: Innocence Shining


12-11-11 Philippians 2:15 Innocence Shining

Philippians 2:15b You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.

Spending everyday with my grandson who is now five leaves me wondering if Jesus might change out this analogy if he had to spend hours and years with a child. Don’t get me wrong. I treasure my time with him, but there are times when I am absolutely befuddled by his capacity to manipulate and fabricate. Some days I wonder if he’s going to end up with a flat bottom from sitting in time out so much. Then this morning during our Sunday School class I saw a verse that gave me a fresh perspective.

Ever since our grandson came into our lives he has been the center of our attention. At first he and his mommy, our daughter, lived with us. If Asher wanted to play a game (Follow the Leader was his favorite), or run (laps through the kitchen, dining, and living rooms), or watch a video (Baby Einstein rules), then we responded and played. Five years later the games and videos have changed but not his thirst for our undivided attention. But this doesn’t stop at home. When we go out to eat or to a church function, Asher assumes that everyone wants to hear his story or play his games. He is completely convinced that what he has to say or do is exactly what everyone needs to listen to. I’m starting to believe that he could grow up to be a politician.

As I reflected on both the verse and Asher’s behavior, I began to feel better about Asher and Jesus. If nothing else, Asher’s life shines brightly. He has received praise and is pretty secure in his ability. He knows how to shine. As adults we tend to lose some of that. Insecurity and self-doubt take over and inhibit what should be natural shining. Asher believes that he is pretty amazing and without guile he just presumes to share that with everyone. Some may call it precocious. I see it as innocent and unperverse.

Prayer: Thank you Father, for teaching me what innocent looks like. Challenge me to see where pretense has gained a foothold in my life and help me clean it out. I want to shine brightly for you. Amen.

Advent: The Draw of Light


12-10-11 Isaiah 60:1-3 The draw of light

Walking in the dark is not something I do very well. When I was younger and either attending or serving as a counselor at different camps, I always made sure my flashlight was near at hand and on the ready. In some of those camps it could be extremely dangerous to walk around in the dark, alone, at night.

Yet even in this season that celebrates light in so many ways, there are many walking around in the darkness, and it’s just as dangerous for them. Financial concerns have doused their hopes for security. Relationship woes have left them vulnerable and afraid to trust, to love. Nothing is going the way they dreamed it would. They feel alone. They feel lost. It is to them that Isaiah seems to be shouting across the centuries. “Wake up. The light you need to dispel the terrible darkness that blakets and blinds you has come, and his name is Emmanuel, God with us.”

Our prayer for today: Father, keep your light shining through me today so that the light of your love will be able to lead someone from the oppressive darkness they are wandering in back to the safety of your great love. Give me courage to whisper a wake up call, your call to arise! Amen.

Advent: Chosen To Shine


12-9-11 1 Peter 2:5-9 Chosen to shine

Chosen. I don’t know about you, but that is a precious word to me. I know what it is like to not be chosen. No teams wanted me in sports, or math drills, or spelling bees. But my husband chose me and chose to stay with me through the rockiest of times in our marriage. And my God chose me. In Ephesians Paul writes that God chose us before the foundation of the world (1:4).

In our passage for today, we read that we were chosen by God with a specific purpose in mind. Peter makes the amazing declaration that we were chosen to be God’s people, his special possession. But don’t rest there. There is no period at this point. Not time to sit back and just bask in the love. No. We are to declare his praises. And this isn’t just because God has some great ego and needs us to stroke it. No, no. If you keep reading you will find that we are to live Godly lives in a godless world. This is no time to put your light under a bushel (Matt. 5:14).

One of my favorite hymns lifts praise to the Lord. The chorus says:

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice.

Oh, come to the Father through Jesus the Son

And give him the glory, great things he has done.

 It was an amazing day when I caught that if the earth was to hear his voice, it will need to hear my praises. You’ve been chosen. Make sure your light is shining. Make sure your praises are being heard.

Advent: Glowing


12-8-11 Ephesians 5:6-14 Illuminated

My thoughts for today’s scripture come from verse 13. It reminded me of glow in the dark toys. My kids loved these, and now so do my grandkids. Truth be told the whole concept of glow in the dark anything has always caught my attention. Remember hiding under blankets or going into a closet, someplace dark to be awed by the glowing item? Remember the disappointment that would come if the toy hadn’t been in the light long enough and either only dimly glowed or didn’t glow at all?

Our text tells us that if we have had the light of God shone upon us then we will be illuminated. We will becoming lights. We will glow in the darkness of the world around us.

 So how’s your glow going?

Advent: Runway Lights


12-7-11 Psalm 119:105-106 Runway lights

My grandson loves to play with flashlights, but he has never needed one to light his path through the dark woods, or through the house when the power has gone out. When he plays with a flashlight, the beam is anywhere and everywhere but at his feet. I have, on the other hand, clenched tightly to my flashlight when walking through the woods at camp, and searched hard when during a storm we are left powerless. A light for my path is very important thing.

As I pondered this text I got the image of a pilot getting ready to land a plane. It has always been comforting to see the runway lights as we approach our destination airport. I have seen footage of unlit airports and the tension is obvious in the flight staff. “Blind” landings can be done, thanks to amazing instrumentation, but it is never desirable.

I’m thankful that God’s word provides light and guidance for our feet and for our journey. There’s no reason or excuse for us to walk blindly in our journey with Him.

Advent: Getting Beyond Fear


12-6-11 Psalm 27:1-4 Getting beyond fear

What are you afraid of? I have a whole list of things, but the top two have to be fear of the unknown and fear of failure.

I found it interesting as I was preparing for Christmas one year to look at how many times the participants in that first Christmas were told not to be afraid. We may never be addressed by the heavenly host, but we have fears. We may not wear them on our sleeve, no one may even know what fears gnaw at our heart and keep us from enjoying life to its fullest. No one, but God.

There was a movie several years ago about some grown men, who in an effort to find themselves, go on a cattle drive (City Slickers). They meet up with a gnarly cattle boss who keeps telling them that life is about one thing. Unfortunately, he dies before he can tell them. As believers we too have “one thing” that should drive us, and keeping that goal in sight should dispel our fears. Our one thing is live in God’s presence: dwelling in his house, beholding his beauty, and asking all our questions.

Just now, thinking back over my own fears, I realize that their roots go deep into trust. I imagine that was true for Mary, for Joseph, for the wisemen and shepherds. None of this made sense, not to mention it was being fortold by a scarey and overwhelming angelic army. But God wanted them to rest assured, to trust him in the midst of their doubts and fears. He was in control and totally trustworthy.

What are you facing this Advent season that is causing fear to rise up in you? Hear the voice of God, “Don’t be afraid. I am in control.”

Advent: Discouragement’s Cure


12-5-11 Psalm 43:1-5 Discouragement’s cure

I was only going to focus on the cure that the psalmist seems to put forth, that being hope. But I think that’s a hard jump to make when you’re feeling like taking one more step is more than you can do. In the discouraging times of my life, I may have known that I needed to put my hope in God: hope that He had better plans for me; hope that things were going to get better; hope that I wasn’t going through the dark time alone. The piece that I sometimes forgot is the piece that the psalmist puts outs there in the early verses.

There are some who might read the second verse and hear the writer’s scathing accusation against God, but it seems like more of a reminding. In Exodus, when the Hebrew children found themselves facing the Red Sea on one side and the advancing Egyptian army on the other God makes known that he has them right where he wants them (see Exodus 14:1, he told them where to camp). We often quote Jeremiah 29:11 (the great verse about hope), but go back and read the beginning of the chapter. It says that God put them in exile and they might as well settle in because they’re going to be there a while.

Are times tough right now? Is the valley long, lonely, and confusing? Trust that God knows, has a plan, and you will come out on the other side with such a story to tell. For now, go to the altar of God, and praise him with exceeding joy (sounds like James 1:3) for he is your hope and help.


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