The Baby King

Luke 2:1-18

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Do you remember playing musical chairs as a youngster? That supposedly fun game that had you march around a circle of chairs only to try to sit down in one when the music stopped. The object, of course, was to sit before everyone else because there were less chairs than people. The number of chairs would then be reduced and the music started again. The process continued until there were two kids and one chair with the winner being the last one to sit. It was plenty of fun for the winner, but I can recall feeling pretty lousy at not making it to the end.

I can also remember that sinking feeling of being the last one chosen to play baseball and off to right field I would go. There was also the pain in the pit of the stomach sensation when I had been excluded from a gathering of the other kids in the neighborhood.

It’s not my purpose to dredge up old feelings of being left out this Christmas, actually quite the opposite. Instead I would point your attention to the miraculous fact that the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, came to the world as the infant whose birth we celebrate today. An infant, it turns out, that wants all people everywhere to feel included by the love of God.

The King as an infant! What a radical way to set a salvation plan into motion! As a father of two children, I can recall the total and complete dependence of my kids when we first brought them home. There was nothing (well maybe one thing) they could do without adult help. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Yet, the bible tells as that the Son of God spent his early hours wrapped in rags and lying in a barn or cave inside a feeding trough! Hardly an A-list reception.

Pondering this momentous occasion again, I can see the love and logic in the divine plan. Jesus, so the theologians tell us, had to be both fully divine and fully human in order to perfectly carry out the plan of salvation for all humankind. Though I’d be lying if I said I fully understand this, I take it on faith because God has proved totally faithful in all things.

The great comfort that comes to me today is the fact that Jesus, growing up from that baby to pre-teen to teen and finally adult, experienced all the feelings and emotions that I did and do. All those left out feelings I mentioned, the Lord felt them too! And what is even more wonderful than simply knowing that Jesus can relate is the fact that if I bring my pain and hurts to Him, He will minister to my heart in a way tailor made for me and all the while assuring me/us of the love of God that will care for us now and forevermore!

So take please take a moment as you unwrap those beautifully done up gifts today, to consider the absolutely most awesome gift ever given once again, Jesus Christ; the life giving present that did not come to us in a perfectly prepared package, but instead was wrapped in old rags, lying in a manger. And as you do, allow the love of God to minister to all the old hurts you might have so that you can more fully rejoice this day (and always) in the love that was given to us all in Jesus Christ.

May the blessings of this season be upon you,

Pastor Chuck

Have you seen the wind?

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(image courtesy of tokarphoto)

Have you ever seen: Rain? Snow? Trees? Grass? Flowers? The sky? The sun? The moon? Of course you have. Your sense of sight sees them most everywhere you look. Your other senses remind you of many other of the multitude of things that surround us constantly in the physical world.

What about the wind? Have you ever seen it? You can see trees move and their leaves blowing around. You can also see the mighty force of wind in storms like tornados and hurricanes. Yet these things are the result of wind. I ask again; Have you ever seen the wind? I have not. But even though I have not seen wind with my eyes, I know that it exists. I have felt it on my skin and seen it move things, making me convinced that it is real.

What about God? Have you seen Him? Personally, I have not. I am alright with this because the Scriptures tell us that God does not need to be seen or experienced by our senses in order for us to know He exists. Much like we know the wind is real by what we see it do; the same goes for God.

But we do have to look (perceive) things a little differently for us to ‘see’ Him. The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians explains it this way: So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

Basically he is telling us that in order to see God in the world around us, we have to take our focus off the material, tangible world. This is a difficult thing to do. Yet it is necessary so that we can be able to experience His presence with us day by day.

We have to practice using eyes of faith with the intention of getting them to a 20/20 capability. How can this be done?

Allow me to share with you my approach and though I am still a work in progress, I have found it to help sharpen my faith-sight. The author of the Book of Hebrews defines faith in a way that I use toward this end: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

I practice this as a two part exercise. First, I must be sure of what it is that I hope for, understanding that this hope is not like hoping to win a lottery but rather a calm assurance that the presence of God is a real and true thing. Next, by honing my faith eyes to see the things I cannot see, the faith that God has given me grows ever stronger.

As I said, this is a work in progress. There are times when the physical world around me brings me to near sensory overload. When this starts to happen, my eyes of faith tend to grow dim. The comfort here is that though I may be having trouble seeing what is unseen; this does not mean that God is not there. As I remember this, the unseen usually comes back into focus and with it the assurance of God’s loving care, protection and direction.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I deeply appreciate your time and pray that these words may indeed help you to see the unseen a little more clearly today.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Who’s in charge around here?

Chaos and confusion seem to define more and more of life today.  Uncertainty and unease are much more prevalent in our world than are peace and contentment.  Not only does it seem as if the world in the big picture is going crazy before our very eyes, for many people their personal lives are also marked and marred by constant upheaval.

If you find yourself struggling with the things life is throwing at you, or if you ever have been in a time when your life was out of control, this week’s Take On Challenge of scripture readings is for you!  During the previous two weeks we have been considering the wilderness experiences of our lives, those times when we have been faced with significant challenges, trials and doubts.  The scriptures we have read up to this point have been meant to help us see that Jesus experienced the same feelings we do today as temptation and trouble come at us.

The passages I have selected for this week are a little more ‘rubber hits the road’ types of things.  These readings might help us to ask ourselves some hard questions with regard to the circumstances of our lives; and hopefully, will give us some insight into how we can better respond to them.  That we all go through/are going through difficult times is an established fact.  If your past record of failed attempts at handling/dealing with them is anything like mine, you will welcome these passages from God’s word as a welcome resource of help.  To set the tone; the question to ask yourself is: Who is in control of your life?  Spoiler alert: He can be found in this week’s readings!

The first reading in Week 3 is found in Luke’s gospel, Chapter 8:22-25.  Here you will read how Jesus calmed the storm that was threatening to capsize the boat he and the 12 disciples were in.  Please read this several times.  Consider how and what the disciples were feeling and their reaction to the danger that confronted them.  Realize as you read and think about this that these 12 guys had already been witness to so much of what Jesus had miraculously done.  They had seen many people healed of sicknesses, demon-possessed people set free and of course they had been exposed to the wonderful teaching and powerful life-model of Jesus.  Then give careful consideration to Jesus’ reaction to their plea for help, especially noting the order in which he did things.

For the second reading this week we’ll go back to the Old Testament.  I would ask you to read the first Chapter of 1 Samuel and also the first 11 verses of Chapter 2.  Samuel grew up to be a great leader of the Israelites because of his faith in God.  The portion of this story I am suggesting you read tells about his mother, Hannah.  Try to relate to her feelings as she faces the struggles of her life.  For context, it is important to know that there was a terrible social stigma attached to a woman who could not bear children in those days, that being childless was somehow a judgment against her.

As you read the first 11 verses of Chapter 2, you will gain insight into the depth of her character and oh her knowledge of our all-powerful God.  Hannah’s perspective from both the struggle of life to a sense of fulfillment should be encouraging to all of us.

The last of the readings for Week 3 is taken from Philippians 4:4-13.  This letter was written by the Apostle Paul.  These verses contain a wealth of encouragement for all.  Paul tells us first that instead of just worrying about things, we should instead pray to God about them (Try it, it works!).

Also as you read, see if you can find hope as Paul did.  Hint: He found it in any and every circumstance of his life.  When we ask and then allow God to come in and give us direction, we can absolutely trust it to be the very best for us.

My hope and prayer for all who read these passages is that you will find not only strength and comfort in the wilderness portions of your life, but that the peace of God that truly does transcend all understanding may fill you with good hope and assurance.  May you be so filled in this way that instead of having to ask, ‘who’s in charge around here,’ your life will be a resounding proof that Jesus is!

In closing, allow me to again invite you to bring your questions, thoughts or comments to me.  You can do that by simply responding in the space provided here at the bottom of the page.  If you prefer a more private mode of contact, please email me at: pastorchuck38@gmail.com