Strength For Shaky Times

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Psalm 121 1-2 I look up to the mountains;
    does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
    who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

3-4 He won’t let you stumble,
    your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
    Guardian will never doze or sleep.

5-6 God’s your Guardian,
    right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
    sheltering you from moonstroke.

7-8 God guards you from every evil,
    he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
    he guards you now, he guards you always. (The Message)

Negative news. Fake news. No news. Too much information. Confusing and conflicting words coming from sources that should encourage us, solidify us, comfort us…direct us. Who do we believe? Who can we believe? What do we want to believe?

If my peace, my strength, only comes from external and world-based sources, I will always be tossed about, unsettled, and lost.

My strength, my peace comes from a source that is consistent, unshakeable, and always right on time.

The One who is my strength will not allow me to stumble, not from weakness nor in the dark. None of the confusion swirling around me occurs without the awareness of the One who created everything and promises to make all things new.

This One, this creator, is also the shield providing relief and protection. The promise rings true: God is not going anywhere—whether we are close or running, struggling or resting. This One who knows us best and loves us most guards us now and always.

Find your peace there. Find your strength there.

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Advent 16: Blessed are they that mourn.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV)

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

Are God’s consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you? (Job 15:11, NIV)

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. (Luke 2:25)

Excuse me. Could you lift your head up out of your celebration for a moment? Please. I won’t take long. I just want to remind you that not everyone is having a jolly old time during this season of merriment.

Look, I’m not trying to be Debby Downer…but I think it’s important to remember that there are people experiencing all kinds of levels of grief and loss. They look at the dinner table and there’s an empty chair. Perhaps it’s not a person but a job and income that they have lost. Maybe they have lost their dream.

And try as they might they can’t muster up an ounce of Christmas joy. It just hurts too much.

Here’s the good news: God gets that.

Honestly that’s the whole reason God gave. God came.

As with Job, he comes to speak words of comfort to you.

Like all of Israel, waiting and looking for a Messiah. Suffering under foreign and oppressive rule. That’s why in the midst of the Story there’s the story of Simeon. This righteous man was desperately seeking God’s promised redemption.

And because he was looking, when Jesus was brought to the temple–Simeon recognized him as God’s consolation. He’s arrived!

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians the passage I quoted above, he was at the bottom of the bottom. He was so low he was ready to die. (Go ahead and read the rest of chapter one and you’ll get the picture.)

But as low as he was, he recognized that God was still there to be the God of all comfort and consolation. And he also knew that he had received this balm for his heart to share it with others.

Way back in the Old Testament, God told Abraham that he was blessed to be a blessing (see Genesis 12:2). If you are mourning, grieving, feeling the pain of some loss this Christmas season, look up. God has come where you are. He gave his son a gift to you. Hear his words of comfort. Sense his heart’s ache for you.

Then share the blessing. You have been comforted to be able to share the comfort with other.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled celebration…and hopefully it will include many more people and blessings.

Advent 7: Comfort

What brings you comfort?

Watching my mom fix brekfast this morning I realized her predictable ways are very comforting to me.

This revelation came as I watched her open a can of pineapple. She opened the can over the sink–just in case there was spiilage. Then she set it on the counter, on a washcloth she had laid there to catch any drips.

That’s how she is: always thinking ahead…anticipating need.

As I sat there watching, I actually thought about how much that’s like God. Remember he’s the great shepherd who provide for our very need. He is always one step ahead of us, anticipating not only what we need, but also the messes we might make.

Then I began to think about the implications of that for Advent and the whole no room in the inn thing. It was no mistake the Mary and Joseph delivered God’s son in a stable, because if God had wanted he could have made room in the inn.

God anticipated their need and provided. Jesus wasn’t born along the road in the middle of the night. No, he was born in a stable out of the elements and with a cradle of sorts.

Sometimes God’s ways confuse me. Both then and now. But they also bring bring me comfort. God anticipates my every need and though he takes m edown paths I don’t understand I know he does indeed lead me where I need to be.

And I don’t know about your life but he has always been faithful to stay right by me as we put the pieces back together. He wastes nothing…even using the messes I have made.

So as you sing carols about the comfort of God, remember that comfort may not come as you expect or want it, but it will come. You willhave exactly what you need.