Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

What’s After Christmas?

Today will be a sad day—saying goodbye to Christmas

  • taking down the tree
  • reading the last Christmas devotional
  • putting away the Christmas music
  • eating the last pieces of Christmas candy.

But in eleven months we’ll be getting it all out again—OR ELSE we’ll be in Jesus’ presence enjoying a much greater celebration than our annual ones here.

We live in between Jesus first and second advents.  As we review the prophecies and promises that were fulfilled in great detail during Jesus’ birth, life, and death long ago, we can be sure that the remaining prophecies and promises will also be fulfilled in just as amazing detail when He comes again–no longer as a helpless baby or a dead man on a cross as so many view Him during the primary Christian holidays—but as a joyous Bridegroom coming to claim His bride. 

Many criticize people like me who get excited about Christ’s return.  But Jesus Himself told us to be watching, waiting and ready (Matthew 25).  And he has promised a reward for “all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8.

And what is so strange about an engaged woman planning, preparing and dreaming of her wedding—of beginning a new life with the one she loves, excited about being together always, growing ever deeper in their relationship,  living happily ever after?

When we were kids, we loved those stories.  After all the poverty and misery, cruel stepmothers and evil spells, we knew there would be a “happy ever after” with her beloved.  I believe God has built that hope into the human soul because it’s actually true—not just a bedtime story but a reality that will make this present world, when we look back on it, seem like a dim and fleeting shadow.

We fix our eyes on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.  2 Corinthians 4:18

Bright New World 
(Listen at this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwUOkzyffjs

Someday a bright new wave will break upon the shore
And there will be no sickness
No more crying, no more war
And little children never will grow hungry anymore
And there will be a bright new morning over there
There’ll be a bright new world for us to share

Someday there’ll be an end to unkind words and cruel
The man who said there is no God will know he is a fool
And peace will be the way of life with love the only rule
And there will be a bright new morning over there
There’ll be a bright new world for us to share

Someday we know not when, when time on earth is done
And those redeemed from every land will all become as one
Voices of all ages praising God the three in one
And there will be a bright new morning over there
There’ll be a bright new world for us to share

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Peace on Earth?

Lion & lamb

“Peace” is heard often at Christmas time.  Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be called the Prince of Peace.  And the angel announced to the shepherds “peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (NLT)  But what kind of peace and when, and who will enjoy it?  Consider these possibly confusing quotes from Jesus and Paul in the New Testament:

Jesus:  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” He then describes how families will be divided on the basis of their belief or disbelief in Him.  (Matthew 10:34)

Jesus: Peace I leave with you…not as the world gives…let not your heart be troubled/afraid.  (John 14:27)

Paul:   Having been justified by faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Romans 5:1)

Paul:  Christ is our peace, reconciling Jewish and Gentile believers  (Ephesians 2:14,15)

The key is to realize that “peace” has several different senses and to understand each reference in the way in which it was intended.  The following four senses of “peace” are listed in the American Heritage Dictionary:

  • Absence of hostility / war
  • Harmonious interpersonal relationship
  • Public security
  • Inner calm, serenity

Can you match the above references with these different senses?

Another key is to see how these various senses relate to one another, especially within the kingdom of God:

  1. Christ’s mission was to reconcile people with God by dealing with the sin problem.
  2. Those who have been reconciled with God can forgive and accept one another, living in harmony.
  3. Trust in God’s love, power, and goodness brings inner calm.
  4. And someday, as Isaiah and the angel said, Christ will rule over a harmonious, peaceful Kingdom where all will be secure.  This is what is often referred to as “The Peaceable Kingdom” where children, wild and domestic animals will all frolic together. 

But all of this is possible only under Christ, the Prince of Peace! 
All other so-called “peace” is shallow, artificial, and short-lived.

Magic or Mystery? Miracle!

“Magic” conjures up visions of Disney, fairies, children, fleeting fascination and temporary delight. But then the story ends and real life resumes.

Mystery—hidden, partly revealed—we see the tip of the iceberg, a glimpse of glory, a foretaste of complete fulfillment, a vision of what our mortal minds cannot yet bear to gaze on in its full glory.

HOW could the infinite God limit Himself to a fetus for nine months, then a totally dependent baby–

–the Way learning to walk
–the Word learning to speak

A child becoming aware of Who He really was—God of all, yet submitting to his earthly parents and authorities until the time came for Him to begin giving the all a glimpse of this most awesome MYSTERY of Who He really was.

WHY did He come? Love! Pity! Hesed! God’s long, strong arms reaching down to rescue a world of ruined, rebellions humans gone wrong. And to raise them up to His original purpose for them. This great love is a mystery in itself. How can infinite God care so deeply about me?

WHO is this baby lying in a feeding trough? The angels said He was “a Savior born to you, Christ, the Lord!” The long-awaited Savior-King has finally arrived! But how will He save His people? It’s a mystery unfolding, not as they thought but saving us first inside then out—“inside-out”!

And what of His kingdom? It would be upside-down! The least are first and the first last!

WHO is He to me?

–my Creator
–my God
–my sovereign Lord
–the sacrifice for my sin, my Savior
–my Intercessor
–my Friend
–my Brother
–my coming Bridegroom
–and so much more!

WHEN will He fulfill His kingly destiny? That’s still a mystery. He’s given us hints, but most importantly, He’s given us His word! He will surely come—

–King of kings and Lord of lords
–conquering
–reigning in love and wisdom

Forever and ever!

Oh, that is the mystery
More than you can see.
Give up on your pondering
Fall down on your knees!

    Michael Card  (
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o79Dvo4Ns1A)

My Father’s Gifts

There are no gifts under the tree, but amazingly that doesn’t matter to me.  My heart is full of the gifts my Father gives me every day!

–The assurance that He has chosen me to be His own beloved child

–The peace that He is in control over the whole earth and cares for me and those I love

–The love of family and friends

–The delight at seeing His hand of guidance when I need it

–Answered prayers

–Daily provision of my needs

–The beauty that’s all around me to enjoy

–The joy His Spirit puts in my heart

–AND LOTS MORE!

(Written several years ago, but the message is still true!)

What’s on the tree?

DSCN1337

This month our Christmas tree celebrates its 43rd year of service.  Its decorations have improved greatly from the first year—strings of popcorn, real cookies, and those satin-covered styrofoam balls—to a collection of “treasures” accumulated through the years.  Some are just pretty or fun, but many have special significance:

Hearts symbolizing God’s love shown through Jesus and through friends & family

Bells reminding us of the joyful news of our Savior coming to earth to save us

Angels who announced the King’s birth

Snowflakes and poinsettias, beautiful examples of His creation that we enjoy in the winter time

A dove—the Prince of Peace who will one day reign unrivaled on a new earth

Harps and pianos, the music of praise to our Creator and Redeemer

It’s His birthday!  Let’s celebrate Him!

Seeing God on Main Street

On an early morning walk in the countryside, we were invited by a local resident up to his porch for coffee.  As we visited, he had a question for us: “If there is a God, why doesn’t He show himself to us?” Taken by surprise, I responded that He has made Himself known in creation. 

How often have I wished that I’d had the presence of mind to say “HE HAS!”  God did show himself when Jesus came into the world and lived among humankind for over 30 years.  They could see him—what he did, what he said, how he loved, healed, prayed, how he challenged the comfortable assumptions of the proud and drew the oppressed to himself. 

But did that make any difference?  To some it did.  But to those skeptics who wouldn’t listen to the unseen God, seeing him physically didn’t make much difference. Some choose darkness rather than light.  Some would rather have their own way than submit to a loving God who loves them infinitely and has paid the ultimate cost to rescue them from the predicament they have resigned themselves to…

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 (NLT)

Now, that’s Good News!

Breaking the Pattern

Joseph came from a long line of deceivers.

His great-grandfather Abraham passed off his wife as his sister to save his own skin—twice!

His grandfather Isaac did the same.

His father Jacob cheated his twin brother Esau out of his blessing by passing himself off as his brother, deceiving their blind father.

His great-uncle Laban cheated his dad (Jacob) by passing off his older daughter as the younger one behind the bridal veils.

His own brothers passed Joseph off as dead after selling him as a slave to Egypt.

So what was Joseph to do when faced with continual sexual harassment on the job?  Would he also cheat his employer by giving in to that seductive wife?  What about his job security?  After all, as a slave he had no rights at all, even though he was in charge of the household. 

By God’s grace, Joseph had the conviction and courage to break the chain of deceit, refusing to save his own skin.  He would rather lose his job and be thrown into the dungeon for years than do what he knew in his heart was wrong. 

Do you and I dare to be a Joseph? 

Wrong is wrong

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