Who is your favorite

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Most of us have favorites. Be they in the world of movies, sports or music, we have certain personalities, teams and songs that we count as personal favorites.

I have a question for you today that I hope begins a conversation: Who is your favorite bible personality and why. I have found that depending on the season of life I am in or in what portion of the Scriptures I’m reading, my fave personality can change. That is ok, for God’s Word tells us that it is ‘living and active’ (Hebrews 4:12). With that being true, it stands to reason that this living document with reveal different things at different times to us.

With that being said, I was re-reading about one of my personal favorites just the other day, Philip. Philip is a prime example of a person with a servants heart who remains humble in the service to others, regardless of the fact that he gains a fair amount of notoriety as he does so.

We are first introduced to Philip in Chapter 6 in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The number of converts to Christianity has been expanding rapidly; so fast that some of the basic needs of these folks were not being met. The original Apostles wisely discern that they need more help, particularly in the distribution of food to widows and orphans. They select 7 people with the qualifications of being ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ (Acts 6:3) Philip is one of the 7 that are selected to help in this regard.

Soon after this, persecution breaks out against the growing movement of Christ followers. Many are scattered to other regions, including Philip. He ends up in Samaria where he preaches the Good News of salvation through Christ. With the power of the Holy Spirit, Philip performs miracles that display God’s power. He is very popular among the people and many come to faith there.

With this background, allow me now to share 4 reasons Philip is a favorite of mine.

First: He was obedient to God. As I said, Philip was experiencing great success for the Kingdom of God in Samaria. Yet in Chapter 8 he has an encounter with an angel who gives him instructions to leave that ministry and go down a road toward Jerusalem. No other clarification is given. Philip simply listens and obeys. He did not allow his ego to cloud his judgment. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful example of obedience and trust.

Second: Philip is prepared. Like I said, he didn’t know what was ahead, but we soon find out that he was prepared to meet any challenge that might come. On the road, the bible tells us that Philip meets an official from Ethiopia who is stopped in his chariot, reading from the Scriptures. Feeling the prompting of the Spirit, Philip (in another act of obedience), goes to meet this man and then asks him if he understood what he had been reading.

The official answers that he cannot unless someone explains it to him. Philip starts with the passage the official had been reading (from Isaiah), and explains how this is the message of salvation found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is obvious to me that Philip had himself spent time studying, reading and applying the Scriptures. When the question of explaining something came up, Philip was prepared to give the answer.

Now, we do not have to be biblical scholars to be prepared like Philip. But we do need to be familiar with what the bible teaches so that we too can express the truth found in it.

Third: Philip was willing to adapt to the situation as it developed. The Ethiopian official, after having the Scripture explained to him, wanted to express his joy in coming to this knowledge of Jesus by being baptized. There was water nearby and Philip honored the man’s request by baptizing him right then and there.

Again, we might not be called to such a radical act, but then again you never now. May our trust in God be evidenced by our willingness to perform whatever task the Spirit lays out for us.

Fourth: Philip was consistent. Acts Chapter 8 tells us that after he baptized the Ethiopian official, Philip was suddenly and supernaturally taken from that place and placed in another town. Philip, not resting on his laurels, begins to preach the Good News there and everywhere has he traveled to Caesarea. Philip knew the call God had put on his heart, and he consistently walked it out wherever he was.

There you have my favorite, at least for today, from God’s Word. How about you, Most Precious Reader? Would you share with us one or more of your favorites that you have in the bible and why their story has impressed you? Thanks.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

It was (and still is) personal!

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I am not sure if this applies to everyone when it comes to reading the Bible, but it sure does to me! There are certain events that seem to jump off the page to me. Now, realizing I am reading a living document from God Himself, this probably should not come as a huge surprise. Yet, it continues to happen to me. Each year as I read the gospel accounts of the birth of the Savior, I am drawn to those shepherds out in the hills that night.

Much has been written about these guys, so I will not take your time with a long dissertation about them except to say, “You go God! Bringing the news of the birth of your Son first to the lowliest folks on the social scale is so much in keeping with the ministry He would live out.”

Having already written about angelic visitations this season (to Mary and Zechariah and Daniel), noticing again the first human response to an angels sudden appearance comes as no surprise. Luke records it this way: An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:9 NIV) I have no idea what it meant to have the glory of the Lord shine around them, but whatever it was, coupled with the angels appearing, had those poor shepherds shaking in their footwear!

As the biblical accounts all show, the angel first has to allay their fears before delivering the message it was sent to deliver. In this case, it is the awesomely spectacular announcement that: Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you (emphasis added): he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 NIV).

Those two little words are what jumped at me today. To you. God has put into physical motion His salvation plan for the world and He chooses to reveal its kickoff to some nameless shepherds keeping watch over sheep in the middle of the night. Not only was this  a below-the-radar choice of initial recipients, but it was given to them personally (as well as to the rest of the world)!

Then just in case the shepherds were still unsure of what was going on (I would have been!), the angel gives them another personal touch: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Emphasis added, Luke 2:12 NIV)

Those two little words again: to you! Now the shocked shepherds have not only been told what has happened, they have been given a personal invitation to see it for themselves! The proof awaits them in a dark and dank cave, the very Son of God!

As amazing as the personal invitation that was given to those shepherds was, they were not to be the sole recipients of it. God’s grace is available to all. It may not have been pronounced to you in the presence of the heavenly host, but that does not make it any less true.

To make this a little clearer, and certainly more personal, try reading vv. 10-12 this way:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you, (insert your name here), good news of great joy that will be for all people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you (put jour name here again): he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you, (your name). You (you again, one last time) will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

I love reading that with my name in those places. For me, it makes God’s loving care even more tangible. Also, we are blessed to be living in a time when we know how God plays out His salvation: The death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. As wondrous as the birth we celebrate this time each year is, the awesomeness of what God did (and continues to do) is mind boggling, to say the least. And all of this, the prophecy coming to be in His birth, the sinless life and substitution for sinners on the cross and His glorious resurrection, are all done with this same personal invitation to believe and partake.

It is my hope, Faithful and Appreciated Reader, that these thoughts in some small way help you to find the joy in your personal invitation. Won’t you join with me and praise Him for His unending love and care. And like our shepherd friends we started with today, once you accept the invitation and find for yourself the reality of what God has done for you, do as they did: The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were jus t as they were told. (Luke 2:20).

Blessings to you and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Dream On!

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When last we met here on the blog-o-sphere, we considered Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel as he told her the incredible news that she was to conceive and bear the Son of God, all while remaining a virgin! I remarked how steadfast was her faith as after considering this possibility, she simply said to the angel, “May it be to me as you said.” (Luke 1:38b NIV).

Today I would like to give equal time to Joseph, her husband to be at the time Mary’s encounter happened. As we do, we will find that his response to what he was told is just as faith packed as his fiancé’s was. I am basing what I write today on Matthew 1:18-25. (though I am honored that you are reading what I have to say, it is always good advice to read the scriptures for yourself. After all, God will give you much more insight that I will!!)

Before considering what the nameless angel said to him, let us take a minute to consider the social ramifications of what Joseph was about to be told to do. Getting engaged in those days was quite different to what we know as marriage engagement today. To become someone’s intended then was much like a legal contract. It would in most cases be drawn up by the father of the bride and the groom. It usually contained a financial piece, such as the father giving the young man money or property in exchange for marrying his daughter. Most marriages were arranged in that time, and it is quite likely that Joseph and Mary hardly knew each other.

The understanding was that the father was giving his daughter away, and that she would be a virgin. This was highly significant to the people of Jesus’ time. The honor of the entire family of the bride hinged on her being found a virgin when the actual marriage took place.

Knowing this cultural background shines a brighter light on the decision that Joseph has to make. Not long after Mary’s encounter with the Holy Spirit, her body began to give the telltale signs of pregnancy. Joseph knew that he had not be intimate with her, so his logical mind told him that she had been unfaithful.

Joseph had the option of simply calling things off. He was, by the laws of that time, entitled to keep whatever dowry Mary’s dad had given him. He was within his rights to divorce Mary and to get on his life. This would cause Mary and her family great shame.

Blessedly for them, the bible tells us that Joseph was a good guy, and that he did not want to cause any more harm to Mary than was necessary, so he settled in his mind to get a quiet divorce, thus keeping much of this out of the public eye.

As far as I can tell, Joseph has his dream the very night he makes this decision to divorce Mary. As he slept, God’s messenger tells him the same incredible thing Mary had been told: Yes your bride in pregnant yet she is still a virgin! The Holy Spirit has descended upon her and she now carries the very Son of God in her womb.

What a dream! I don’t usually remember my dreams unless they are real doosies. Joseph’s dream would certainly qualify as one of those. But his faith-filled response to all this is found in verse 24: When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Talk about taking a 180! He goes to sleep convinced that he must divorce Mary and wakes up the next day to take her to his home as his wife. I can only conclude that Joseph’s faith had already been strong up to this point in his life. Because the bible says he was righteous, we can know that he was living his faith out in a genuine way. Knowing this, we can see how Joseph was able to receive, process and act on the message he had received from the angel in his dream.

I wonder if or how many times my weak or distracted faith has caused me to miss a message from God. Though I cannot go back to do or undo anything, I can take the lesson from Joseph to heart today and going forward.

I do not believe for a minute that Joseph was just a random dude God selected to be stepdad to His Son. It was because of his evident faith that God gave him this awesome place in history.

You and I are not random elements in God’s plans either. Won’t you join with me by allowing the faith example of Joseph lead us to deeper places of belief? I for one do not want to miss out on anything God is doing. I want to faithfully do whatever He tells me to do. God saw Mary and Joseph through the trials of their time on earth to reveal His salvation plan to all, I am positive that He will provide what you or I might need to carry out our part as well!

Be blessed and a blessing today,

Pastor Chuck

I Would Have Been Scared!

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In the first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke we read about Mary, about to become the mother of the Son of God, and the angel Gabriel, who had been dispatched to tell her this incredible news. If you would like, please stop here in order to refresh the account in your mind. It can be found in Luke 1:26-38.

Welcome back! What struck me as I shared from this passage with our Sunday evening group was how Mary responded to this angelic visit and the news it carried to her. Before delving into Mary’ response to this wondrous sight, let us take a quick look at the responses of some of the great persons of faith from the Bible who also received a visit from angels.

Daniel was a person of strong faith. He served God throughout his life, even when his faith brought him into danger. Yet when the angel visits Daniel (Chapter 10 of Daniel), he describes himself as having “no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. (Daniel 10:8 NIV).

Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. He was a priest in Israel. They were the ones who did the regular ministry in the temple, and occasionally one of them was selected to burn incense at the altar. On one such occasion, this duty fell to Zechariah. As he was tending to the incense, out of sight of everyone else, an angel appeared to him. This visitor told Zechariah that even though he and his wife Elizabeth were well passed child-bearing age, they would have a son. Before he even got this fantastic news Zechariah was struck with fear at the sight of the angel: When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear (John 1:12 NIV).

The Apostle John was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. He was an eyewitness to all the miracles the Lord performed. He saw the healings and heard the teachings. He was in daily contact with Jesus for over three years. Despite all this experience, John is also gripped with fear as he has the vision from which he wrote the Book of Revelation: When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.” (Revelation 1:17-18a NIV).

As we read about Mary’s encounter with a heavenly messenger, we see her response is not quite like the ones I just listed. The angel Gabriel appears and says to her, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28 NIV). It is vital to keep in mind the circumstances: Mary, probably around 14 years of age, is engaged to Joseph. Marriages were usually arranged in those days, and it is possible Mary had not even met this older man yet. What was of the utmost importance was her purity: Mary had to be a virgin to be in keeping with religious and societal expectations then.

After the initial greeting, the narrative tells us that Mary is troubled, and wondered what this was all about. Notice she did not have the ‘knees turned to rubber’ response that Daniel, Zechariah and John had. She was no doubt shocked, but by no means paralyzed with fear. The angel Gabriel must have sensed her confusion as he told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30 NIV). He then delivers the incredible news of her pending pregnancy with no less than the Son of God! In her sandals, I would have been more than scared at this point!!

Not Mary, however. The dialogue between her and Gabriel leaves us the with understanding that she listened, as outrageous as it must have sounded to her, and vowed her obedience to God’s plan. After Gabriel explains how she will super-naturally conceive the Savior of the world, she simply states, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38 NIV).

Why then, I wondered, was Mary’s response so much different than what those three heroes of the faith had? After all, they had seen much in their long lives. God had no doubt been present with them and yet when faced with an angel from heaven, they literally quaked with fear.

Maybe, and this is just my opinion, their own experiences with the things of God had made them a bit too comfortable with how the Almighty does things. To a man, they gave witness to God’s greatness but when faced with a being from heaven, they melted as if they were wax near a flame.

Mary, with all of 14 or so years to her credit, simply listened to the message given her, considered it, and swore her obedience to God. Perhaps her understanding of God was less biased. Life experiences had not in any way caused her outlook to be anything other than innocently open to the Almighty. Hence, not fear when approached by Gabriel, but rather a more child-like wonder.

As the Christmas season comes again this year, I am hoping to re-discover some of that youthful wonder in myself. In a year that has left many of us bruised and battered by what we have seen and experienced, I yearn to be more open to God and what He is doing in these days.

I know how easy it can be to get distracted by and distraught over the condition of our world. Won’t you join with me in seeking to keep all those things in their proper place so that I/we can marvel again at the awesome work of God.

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Hey God, are you listening to me?

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Generally when I, or I suspect most people, ask another, “Are you listening to me,” we want to make sure our point was received or to get a positive response way more than simply wondering if what was said was in fact heard.

I believe the same principle applies when we pray. Our desire is to not only get the Almighty’s attention, but also to get the response to our prayer that we want.

I am also aware that many followers of Christ have spent lots of time earnestly praying for others as well as themselves. I have been asked more than once by these folks if God really listens to our prayers. I realize that the companion question to this is, ‘Does God answers all our prayers?’ Though I am confident that He does, the purpose of this particular blog is to address the inquiry of whether or not God is listening to our prayers.

Though the anecdotal evidence I have gathered through years of ministry point to a resounding ‘Yes!,’ that God is listening, I believe going to the one true source, the Bible, will give us the clearest and infinitely more reliable answer. Please know that the following in no way exhausts the truth found in Scripture pertaining to God hearing our prayers, but it is my hope that these few examples will eliminate any doubt lingering in your heart or mind (Spoiler alert: God is always listening!)

Clear proof that God is listening can be found in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 9, verses 22- 23 record this message being delivered to Daniel by the angel Gabriel: “Daniel, I have now come to give you understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.” (NIV)

Notice how quickly the answer was made; as soon as you began to pray. There is no call waiting with God, no need to leave a voice mail, He is listening.

Here’s an example of one of those long time, devout people I mentioned earlier found in the beginning of the Gospel of Luke learning that God is always listening. Zechariah, who was to become the father of John the Baptist, had been praying to God for a son. He continued this fervent prayer even though he and his wife Elizabeth were now quite old. As we soon learn, age and circumstance pale in the face of the Almighty’s power and plans. One day, as Zechariah, a priest, was about his duties in the temple, an unnamed angel appeared to him: When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.” (Luke 1:12-13 NIV)

Once again, prayer was heard. There is so much more to consider here in this particular passage, but I’ll leave it for another time except to say isn’t cool that the angel knew both Zechariah and his wife by name? This tells me that our prayers are not going to some faceless call-center, but rather are being received personally and with great care.

That is just two examples of prayers being heard. I take great encouragement from them (even if an angel has not been sent to me to deliver the answer!). As if the evidence of Daniel and Zechariah having their prayers heard were not enough, Jesus Himself shines the light of truth on the matter. Immediately before calling His friend Lazarus back to life, the Gospel of John records Jesus saying the following about being heard by the Father: So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41-42 NIV)

Jesus, in complete assurance of what He said was heard by the Father, spoke those words for the benefit of the crowd gathered there and for us. God is listening, always.

Here is one more example, this time from Father God Himself. In 2 Chronicles Chapter 6, there is recorded a long prayer that King Solomon prayed as He and the people dedicated to God the newly completed temple. Please take the time to read this prayer as it is a wonderful example of what our heart position should be when we approach the Almighty in prayer.

Then in Chapter 7, we read that the dedication is over and the people have been dismissed to their homes. It is then that God appears to Solomon and says, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” (2 Chronicles 7:12 NIV)

No angel was sent to Solomon with an answer. Rather, God Himself delivered the message that the prayer offered had been heard.

As stated earlier, this barely scratches the surface of biblical evidence of God hearing prayers. But, you might be thinking, Daniel and Zechariah were notable characters. Maybe their standing moved their prayers up the line faster than those of ordinary folks like you and me.

Not to worry. Our limited and finite abilities as humans to take in information influences how we think God can. Never forget, He is omnipotent. He is limitless, we are limited. Because of His infinite capacity to care for us, He is able to hear all our prayers as we pray them.

I hope these thoughts on whether God hears us when we pray brings you some comfort in this regard. Next time we’ll consider if God answers all our prayers. Until then, keep on praying: God is listening!


Pastor Chuck

The stone was rolled away to allow us in, not to let Jesus out

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The importance of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be overstated! It is the foundational piece of what we as Christians believe. Our faith is to be wholly placed on this act of divine intervention for the salvation of sin-plagued mankind.

I have been using some of the ‘extra’ time I now have on my frequently sanitized hands to ponder this awesome act of love. In particular, I’ve been focusing on something Pastor Diane of the local Lutheran Church said during her Easter sermon. Betsy and I used Zoom to gather virtually with that wonderful group of folks. The Pastor made mention of the stone that was rolled away from the front of Jesus’ tomb was not done to let Him out, but rather to let us in.

This thought struck me and has stuck with me all this week. Like so many things, I have to put aside my understanding of how things work in the natural world so that I can more fully appreciate how God works in the supernatural. When I do, I can see that the resurrected Jesus was freed from the physical limitations He had during His time on earth. Thus, He did not need to have that stone rolled from the entrance of the tomb, it simply could not hold Him there.

The gift of faith God gives allows me to accept this as true and what a blessing that is! What joy it brings. And I find additional comfort in the fact that those who actually spent time with Jesus were faced with similar concerns about that stone. They didn’t ‘get it,’ and some of them spent 3 years in daily contact with Jesus.

Here is how the gospel writer Mark describes the journey of some of these folks to the tomb Jesus had been placed in that first Easter morning:

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:2-3 NIV).

The question of who is never directly answered, because as Mark goes on to record:

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. (Mark 16:4 NIV).

When they peered in, they saw that Jesus was not there, yet the tomb wasn’t empty, either. An angel was sitting there, and he told them that Jesus was risen and that He would meet them in Galilee. Initially frightened and still quite flustered, these women went back to tell the other disciples what they had seen and heard. It would take the Lord Jesus appearing to the entire group later that day before the reality of what was going on would begin to sink in.

Fast forward to today, some 2,000 years after these things first occurred. Many still wonder about that stone. Who moved it and how? Important questions to some, and I understand that. Yet I would submit the more pressing question is why. If, as I said about faith, that Jesus did not need the stone rolled away, we are left with the premise Pastor Diane stated, “It was rolled away to let us in.”

There is such a depth of truth in this! The theological implications are enormous. The Bible teaches that we, as sinful humans, are separated from God. Furthermore, the distance between us and Him is immeasurable and cannot be spanned by any effort of our own. Hence this separation can only be bridged by God Himself. He does this by rolling that stone away from the entrance to the tomb that held Jesus’ body.

The now opened tomb has but one-way in. There is no side door or any other hidden passageway. We must see for ourselves that the immovable stone has indeed been rolled out of the way. We have access, by faith, to the resurrected Jesus because God has removed the barrier.

If you never have, please consider the eternal implication of not taking the step into the place Jesus was. He was there for you! Because the Lord no longer is there the truth of God’s love has been revealed. He has rolled the stone away to let you in. Please take the step of faith to see for yourself.

Blessings to all and be safe,

Pastor Chuck

Let’s Go!

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I do so enjoy reading, thinking about and telling the account of Jesus’ birth found in the bible.  There is such wonder in it all; from a virgin getting pregnant to angelic visitations to a star in the heavens marking the place where the baby Jesus was to be found.  And all this fulfills the prophecies God had given all those centuries before any of this happened, and just as He said it would.

Of all the marvelous things contained in what we know as the Christmas Story, one thing stands out to me each year, with this year being no exception: the shepherds!  When this season rolls around, I find myself considering these lonely figures, tending their flocks in what was the most menial of jobs.  Yet here we are 2000 years later, still talking about what would otherwise be the most anonymous of people.

This year, I decided to dig a little deeper in the lives of shepherds from the time of Jesus’ birth.  What I’ve discovered makes me marvel all the more at God’s choice: these fellows were the first people, outside of Mary and Joseph, to hear of the monumental birth.

On the surface, it appears to be a bit of a head-scratcher.  The single most important birth ever, and the Almighty deemed poor shepherds to be the initial recipients of the awesome news that mankind’s Savior has been born.  To my 21st century way of thinking, I wonder why this choice? Wouldn’t God want to go to the royalty and powerful people of influence of that time to make this announcement? Going to these people would give the message more credibility and allow it to be shared with the other movers and shakers of the time, would it not? It only seems logical to me that the news of the birth of the King of the kings should be shared with those who have the most influence on the world.

And like always, I am ever so glad that God doesn’t come to me for advice on kingdom business!  Shepherds certainly would not have been my first choice.  In fact, they wouldn’t even have shown up on my list of possible first responders.

What I’ve discovered in my research about shepherds from 2000 plus years ago would only serve to ratify my ignoring them.  Shepherds from that day were officially labeled ‘sinners’ by the religious leaders.  This classification was reserved for the most despised people on the social ladder then.  According to Randy Alcorn, the founder/director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, shepherds shared the unenviable status of tax collectors and dung sweepers.

Alcorn goes on the say, Into this social context of religious snobbery and class prejudice, God’s Son stepped forth.  How surprising and significant that Father God handpicked lowly, unpretentious shepherds to first hear the joyous news: “It’s a boy, and He’s the Messiah!”

Here’s a couple of things I conclude about these shepherds this year.  First, everyone, that includes you Dear Reader, is equally important in God’s eyes.  Please be greatly encouraged by this.  Don’t allow what others may see or say about you and your place in our world, because the Almighty takes no stock in their opinion of you.  I say with all confidence that each of us is precious to Him, simply because we’re His kids.  Shepherds weren’t lowly in God’s eyes, and neither are you!

If these wonderful thoughts strike something within you, then please consider what the shepherds did after they had heard of the birth of the Savior.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was laying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16)NIV

The shepherds heard the most incredible news ever, delivered to them by an angel of God.  Once things returned to ‘normal’ after hearing these things, they decided to go check out what the angel had said.  The bible goes on the say that once the shepherds saw things as they had been told they would be, they left rejoicing and telling everyone they met about the miracle arrival of the Son of God.  He had indeed come to save us all.

“Let’s Go” was their excited cry!  May it be yours and mine as well!

May the joy of Christmas be yours,

Pastor Chuck

What a Sight!

I am in no way a well-traveled person. Born and raised in Central New York, I have lived here for all my nearly 58 years. I do not travel much, having never been outside the U.S. (save a few trips to our neighbor to the North, Canada) This is not to say, however, that I have not experienced some wondrous sights in my lifetime.

I have had the opportunity to stand in awe on the shores of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. A vacation to the Southwest gave me the opportunity to see the beautiful red landscape of Sedona and the breath-taking splendor of the Grand Canyon.

As a devoted fan of the San Francisco Giants, seeing three games in the gorgeous AT&T ballpark in 2013 is forever etched in my memory; as is my first football game inside the then brand-new Carrier Dome in Syracuse some 35 years ago.

When employed at one of the three near-by nuclear plants, I stood inside the 550-foot-high cooling tower (while the plant was on shutdown!), with its opening so wide above me I could not see all of it when standing at the bottom! I have stood within a few feet of the spent-fuel pool with its beautiful cobalt blue color, peacefully hiding all that power.
I am sure that most reading this will have seen and experienced much more wonder than I have. I am also equally sure that none of us have seen or heard anything as glorious as a group of lowly shepherds did one night some 2000 years ago:

And there were shepherds living in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14 NIV)

Now there’s a wondrous sight! And on so many levels! First the obvious; the proclamation that the Savior of the world had been born. This wasn’t some minor announcement relegated to the end of a local newscast. No, it was announced from heaven in a way that truly befitted a King. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those shepherds on that lonely hillside as they saw and heard this?

While were on the topic of those shepherds, why were they the first to hear this awesome news? Wouldn’t the town square or perhaps outside the home of the highest official been more fitting for an announcement of this magnitude? After all, shepherding in those days was the lowest of professions. If you were a shepherd, there was little to no hope of ever improving your lot. You were going to work and live with sheep, an often dangerous and always lonely life, and all for the benefit of their owner.

But it is in the fact that shepherds were blessed to hear the news first that we get a clear picture of the heart of God. In His infinite wisdom, he chose to reveal to the lowest that He was breaking in on human history. The Sovereign Lord, the Almighty King of kings, thought it best to tell simple shepherds that salvation had come to all men. A most humbling reminder to all of us; don’t let your station in life dictate to you how and when you may hear from Him. There is no more level playing field than the one that stands before the throne of God.

Not only did God reveal His heart’s desire to mere shepherds, He made it clear that His saving love was for all people. The angel proclaimed that this great news was for ‘all people.’ There is not much explanation needed with the word all; if you are drawing breath, this announcement is intended for you.

As all encompassing as this was, God also made sure the His salvation plan was an extremely personal one too. He had the angel not only tell the shepherds that this Savior born was for them personally (I bring you good news), but for us as well! The Savior Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and was resurrected for absolutely all people. Yet in the midst of that mind-boggling fact, the salvation offered from God to us is done on a personal and one at a time basis.

So, if you are feeling over or under whelmed as Christmas fast approaches, please take a moment to consider again the shepherds whom God first told of the birth of His Son Jesus. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of last minute things keep you from pondering why it is you are doing what it is you are doing. There has never been a more life-changing occurrence in all of history; and it was made with you in mind. What a sight to behold!