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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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

What Can We Do?

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Like so many other countless others, I watch in horror and deep sadness at the senseless violence that continues to occur within the United States and around the world. I simply cannot fathom how a family or friends deals with the news that they have lost a loved one to any of these mindless acts of terror that have been perpetrated.

Again with the majority, I find myself asking why? What drives a person to carry out these cold-blooded attacks on innocent people. Actually, I know at least some of the answer: We live in a broken and evil world. Because of this, hatred has a strong foothold on the minds of many. Only through a heart blackened in this way can someone be capable of carrying out one of these horrendous acts.

Even knowing this, the question persists in my mind and the minds of many others. The rationale seems to be that if we could only figure out the motivation, we could somehow stop these acts from occurring.

Another course of action mentioned more frequently in light of these attacks is gun control. I do not own any firearms myself, but some of my friends do. These folks have them for hunting and yes, home protection, but these are also standout citizens who exercise their right to legally own weapons. These are civic minded people, many of whom are devoted followers of Christ. The thought of doing violence with one of their weapons is unthinkable to them.

As I have mentioned on this platform previously, I have no political agenda on my blog. Having said that, I do not believe the solution to these acts of violence lies in the restriction of people’s right to possess guns. Illegal firearms have always been available to those who desire them, and I am certain always will be.

This leads me to circle back to the original question: What can we do? To start with, I do not know that you or I have within us the capability to stop this wickedness on our own. The hatred seems too deep and so widespread that the efforts of single individuals appears helpless.

But those of us who claim faith in Jesus Christ are not merely individuals. We are united through the Spirit of God as a family of believers. If ever the saying “there is strength in numbers” were true, it is here!

As fellow believers, I call on you to celebrate this unity in several ways. First, let us be intentional in our prayer lives. By this I do not mean that we share a common shopping-list of prayer requests to God. Rather, I call us to respond to God in the way He told Solomon we should: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) NIV

As believers in Christ, we are called to turn from the sin in our own lives and humbly ask God to forgive us of these things. It is when this occurs that the body of Christ can be most powerful. We are not to just look in dismay at the world around us, but first to look inward, to search what needs to be eliminated from our own hearts. God promises to forgive and purify us when we do this (1 John 1:9). As our hearts our cleansed by God, we can pray with confidence that He will fulfill His promise to heal our land.

The other action you and I can take is another one I have mentioned here before: Love one another. Jesus, as He neared the end of His earthly ministry, instructed His disciples to love each other as He loved them. When they/we do this, we show the watching world that we are disciples of the Lord Jesus and that His love is a real and tangible thing.

I am convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that only love, a love that God provides us by the way (1 John 4:19), can be an effective deterrent to pervasive hate. We who proclaim Christ as Savior are called to love one another.

Please join me in praying that God responds to the love-filled prayers of the faithful and begins a grassroots movement of love and peace in our land and across the world. As He does, may you and I proclaim His goodness always and everywhere as we allow the light of Christ to shine through us and into the darkness, bringing hope to the hopeless and comfort to the hurting.

Thank you,

Pastor Chuck

Distress, Oppression and Tribulation

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Like so many, I am deeply troubled by the state of affairs in my country, the United States. Unlike others, however, I will not use this platform to simply re-hash the awful events of the past two weeks. I will state for the record that I have appreciation and respect for the brave men and women in law enforcement who serve all people with respect, dignity and understanding. I must also add that my heart breaks for all victims who have been mis-used, injured and even killed by those who have abused the power given to them in order that they can protect people.

I must also admit that a fair amount of defeatism has crept into my thinking this week. A focal point of the ministry God has given me is to be an encourager of others. I have found this most difficult to do when each idea in my head seems to be met with ‘What does it matter,’ or ‘what’s the use’ as one awful event after another comes to light.

Thankfully, God is infinitely more faithful than me! As I pondered these things this morning, He brought me to a familiar Scripture from which I have attempted to comfort others with through the years. It is John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

As I looked into the original language in which Jesus spoke these words, I found again the peace that He promises. When Jesus referenced this world, John, one of the Lord’s closest disciples, was describing not just the physical world, but also according to Strong’s, “a system opposed to God.” It seems as if the prevalent world view then, much as it is today, had aligned itself in opposition to God.

But to get to that peace Jesus spoke of, I had to better understand the awful events of our recent past through the filter of God’s Word. As always, knowing the context in which these words were spoken is the best place to start. Jesus uttered this statement found in John 16:33 to His closest disciples just hours before He was arrested, tried and crucified. He certainly knew trouble was coming. Again using Strong’s concordance, I found that the trouble the Lord spoke of was not only what they were to face in their immediate circumstance, but it also speaks of tribulation and oppression to come. We certainly are living in times of oppression and tribulation.

After stating that His followers would face troubles, Jesus said what must have sounded as a peculiar thing: Take heart! Basically Jesus was telling them (and us) to cheer up, even in the face of current events. Not that He was telling them to grin and bear it; rather Jesus told His followers to put their full trust in God, the only One who is immeasurably greater than any world circumstance.

Jesus then said something that must have seemed even more incredible at the time: I have overcome the world. To his original audience, it certainly did not look like anything but what they were trying to accomplish had been overcome. Yet, a little over twenty-four hours later, the full depth of this momentous truth would begin to play out as God’s plan for the salvation of the world began with the crucifixion of Jesus. Three days later, as He arose victorious from the grave, the fullness of what Jesus had overcome came to light. Death had been conquered; eternal life was now possible for all those who would put their faith in Christ.

Having reviewed and renewed my faith in this awesome God who loves us all, I re-discovered the peace that Jesus said was to be found in Him alone. Here too a better understanding of the original word used is extremely helpful. This peace, as Jesus described it to be, went far beyond a conventional meaning of the word. Peace for most means the absent of strife. True as this is, the peace Jesus speaks of goes much further as it tells of having a reconciled relationship, as one has through faith in the Lord with God the Father.

As I said, God is faithful! He has seen me through this low time by bringing me back to a place where He is the focus and motivation of my life. For me, this means to be not only the encourager I have tried to be in the past, but to increase my efforts in these troubled times. As I have found (again), God is the only true source of hope that there is.

In practical terms, going forward I will make myself more readily available to those who are hurting while promoting the cause of justice for all people. God has more than enough of His peace to go around. We as followers of Christ must walk boldly in this peace as we make His love known to all; both the oppressed and the oppressor. Only when all sides are confronted with the universal love of God for all (and the call of everyone to respond to this love by loving each other), can the true peace of God be known. Jesus has in fact overcome this world; may we all live as if we believe it to be true!

Blessings,

Pastor Chuck