For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3: 16


After a long journey, the band of travelers from the east arrive in the land of David; they go to Herod, for as the religious ruler of the country they thought that they could get specific directions to the location of the baby king that they had come to honor. But Herod was interested in personal gain, in power, and not in the souls of men; so, they went away from him, and they stayed away from his evil intent. These men were the philosophers and the spiritual counselors to their home country. They studied the stars and they predicted the future. They were the elite thinkers of their culture. Here they were in a foreign land, and they were very far from home; yet, the sense of adventure and the excitement of encountering the fulfillment of their prophetic studies had to be intoxicatingly powerful.


We, too, have all been on a long journey through life. We have all encountered various challenges and trials and roadblocks along the way. Yet, I have found that the presence of Christ remains constant throughout all. His glory shines even brighter than that star that the magi followed. Christ never stops calling to all people just as He has never stopped calling to me. Christ cares deeply about what I do and how I am living; still, these actions and thoughts of mine have never made any difference to Him in regards to His desire to lead me to truth, to integrity, to righteousness, and to love. Since I have known Jesus on the profoundly personal basis that He desires for all, the journey to God’s presence is a very short one, for His Spirit is a part of who I now am. Still, that journey can seem like the longest and the most challenging expedition that I could imagine; yet, that perception is my problem. God is here with me always; it is my heart that tries to shut him out. I am the one that tries to run and hide from Him and His truth.


For people who haven’t come to the decision to enter into a relationship with Jesus, the journey to Him is also, in fact, very short, for it is accomplished in the heart, not with the feet, and He is there waiting to enter into it with everyone. There are no special words and no magic spells required. God does love everyone, and Christ wants to complete that love by infusing every one’s heart with it. So, like the Magi, we come to the presence of Christ bringing gifts to honor the king, He wants us to bring Him a gift also. God wants us to give him the gift of our lives. He wants us to present our willingness to let him have control of our thoughts and our actions, and He asks for us to give Him our openness and willingness to live for Him. In turn, God gives us everything. He gives us His hope, grace, comfort, freedom, honesty, compassion, serenity, understanding, companionship, majesty, and joy. God gives us all of this and so much more, and all of this is ours always and forever.


So, I ask myself, where am I on this journey today? What is it that I am holding onto out of fear or stubbornness or some other personal motive; what does God want me to lay at His feet as my gift of self? As I fall down before the King in worship, I challenge myself to accept Christ’s gifts to me, to live like they are my reality, and like the Magi did, I am to go into my own world to tell of this gracious love that fills my heart and that gives me my true purpose in life.



“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Luke 4: 18, 19


Jesus is quoting the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61: 1,2) during this time of teaching in His own hometown of Nazareth, and the Lord is stating a primary purpose for His time on earth. Everyone is poor; all are held captive; blindness is rampant; and the oppressed and their oppressors all need the sort of status and position of strength that can only come from God, Himself. Jesus wanted His entire world to hear and to understand that their freedom, their year of Jubilee, was at hand. Yet, most of them didn’t listen and embrace their freedom.


The voice of Christ continues to speak this same message of future hope and of present joy through deliverance, and we are faced with the same decisions that people in Isaiah’s and in Jesus’ times had to consider. We can continue to hold onto the things in our lives that seem to give us comfort and power but actually rob us blind; therefore, we can remain in our impoverished and sightless condition, or we can trust Christ to the depths of our hearts and allow that everything that we surrender to Him will be replaced by something much greater. The hardest aspect of this personally is that I don’t get to define or to choose exactly how and what God will do in my life. He simply wants me to accept His reality and to trust Him with it all. Thus, the Lord tells me to open my hands, let go, and be healed.


This all sounds so simple; yet, it is among the hardest things that most of us can entertain. It involves deep and very personal exposure of self to God, and we are required to start to walk the tightrope of life without our well-established safety net of comfort and habit. Yet, soaring across the heights in the arms of God is exhilarating, and walking out of the bondage that sin has wound around the heart, even if today’s journey is for only a step or two, is the sort of freedom that provides us with an insatiable taste for more of the same. So, let us enter into the peace and the rest for the spirit that Christ describes and celebrate the coming of the Year of the Lord.


Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3: 16


God dislikes separation and distance more than almost anything; He seeks after everyone and He keeps calling to us all even long after we have covered our ears with our hands, locked our hearts away in a steel vault, and given our allegiance to others. So, when we have listened to the call of eternal love and acceptance and come to God, is it any surprise that the Lord would continue to seek an ever more intimate and involved relationship with us?


Therefore, God gave us His word, and He provides His Spirit to guide us into an increasingly deep and comprehensive understanding of it. Still, it is up to each of us to decide to open ourselves up to the deep truths of the Lord, for I have found that the more I seek wisdom, truth, and understanding, the more of them I will gain, and when I apply the understanding that God has given me to the way that I live, His peace and joy fill my soul with a song that can not be suppressed.


We are not called to live each day as if we were actors in a musical play where all of our lines are delivered in song; yet, God wants us to be so closely connected to His love, grace, and mercy that our hearts are continually filled with thankfulness and our words and actions are those of someone whose view of life is framed from an eternal perspective. So, as the Spirit of Christ fills the heart with the peace and joy of His Word and that comes out of His presence, it is not at all surprising to consider that we would express it all by way of singing out in praise to our Lord and Savior.


Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

whom he has redeemed from trouble

and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

Psalm 107: 1-3


Those of us who know Christ fit into the group of people that are being called upon here to join in praise of the Lord. Each of us might initially want to disagree and say that I have not come from far away, for I was born and raised in this place that is under the direct protection, guidance, and blessing of God. Although, I could also assert that I agree with the fact of Christ’s saving sacrifice on the cross and that His salvation from sin has been given to me by and through grace, I could still bristle at the concept of my life as being one that was plagued by trouble. This world where I dwell is just not that disturbed or chaotic; it is not like some of the other places in this world where real trouble dwells. Although I could attempt to put myself and my experience outside of the hard and the difficult world that the writer is calling out in these verses, that attempt would be futile, and it would also be false.


No one is born into anything more elevated than trouble and distance. It doesn’t matter if we are born into wealth or into deep poverty, and the language and the customs of home have no real impact on our status and situation, either. Trouble in imbedded in the DNA that our mothers and fathers provided for us. We are influenced by its effects from the day that we first draw breath, and the air that fills our lugs at that moment and from it onward is tainted with trouble’s irritating sting. Nothing that we can do will ease the pain of its presence, and no form of relocation or change of external environment can adequately improve the conditions that surround us as the sort of trouble that crushes souls and that steals life is too pervasive to be eluded by means that we own and control. Trouble in its most fundamental and elemental of forms grows out of our sinful rejection of God and rebellion against His will. So, also, true distance is defined by the separation that our sinfulness has caused to necessarily exist between each person and our Creator. It is something that we desire and maintain and that Christ continually seeks to bridge.


It is this desire to draw near to each of us that we celebrate and give thanks for. Despite all that we have done to turn away from God and from His righteousness, He continues unceasingly to come after each of us. Christ certainly enters into our days of trouble and our times of distress, but He also goes with us into the routine and the normal times when all seems to be going smoothly and predictably along the course that we have charted for ourselves. For even these good days are heading toward times when challenge and grief become real and too present as we dwell in this world with its broken structure. Christ is here with us in and through all that life brings our way, and He is also fully ready to bring us and our lives into the center of God’s redemption and security for our souls, hearts and minds. All the Lord asks of us is to turn to Him and accept the grace that Christ suffered upon that cross to perfect and complete. Yet, in accepting Christ and the salvation that He brings, we have entered into a relationship with God that is cause for joy such that all of life, even its trials and grief, becomes an ongoing cause for shouting out in thanksgiving and praise to our Lord and Savior!



Clap your hands, all peoples!

Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

Psalm 47: 1


Unfortunately, there is plenty of shouting going on in our world today. We can all attest to being exposed to hearing people literally yelling at each other when quiet discourse would be far more effective in accomplishing what needs to be done. Even when the volume of the voices is held in check, the nature of the words and the intensity of their delivery can still equate to a shouting match. We do it in print, and we do it by using our electronic communication devices. There are days when it seems as if our whole planet has decided to join in a dysfunctional and discordant chorus of worldly hymns in celebration of disagreement and entrenched position holding. Unfortunately, at least for me, none of this is very pleasant, and it does not get much that is good and worthwhile accomplished either.


God did not design His creation to be dysfunctional, and He does not desire for us to be contentious with each other. This fact leads me to consider if there might be a better way to engage with each other in the process of operating this planet. Perhaps if we stopped focusing so intently upon what it is that we want and desire and started to turn our eyes toward the Lord with the same concentrated gaze, we would see the world and each other differently. It might just be worth it for people to stop working so hard to establish their own points of view and start to meditate upon what it is that God would have us think, say, and do. In this process, we could relieve the silence and celebrate God’s revealed truth by joining together with others in singing songs of praise to God and by joyously clapping our hands and dancing.


My point is that worshiping the One who has answers and focusing upon His truth is far more likely to solve the issues that we are facing than is any of the loud and self-serving discourse that is so common these days. May I be so bold as to suggest that we could enter into a period of fasting, as it were, from all public position stating expressions, from calling out the failings of those who hold opposing views about issues, and even from the processes of gathering in the halls of governance to debate and to contest laws and such so that we can turn all of our attention toward the Lord and listen together for His will to be expressed in all matters. Then, as God, who is King and Sovereign Lord over all of Creation, speaks and provides us with His perfect will, we can break out in songs of praise and join hands in a celebratory dance as an expression of delight at the harmony and peace that our God brings to all people.

All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord remains forever.

1 Peter 1: 24, 25


Peter looks back across human history to cite words that Isaiah set down that were just as fresh and current in Peter’s day as they were when they were first written. Now, when we look at life in our times, they still apply. For we humans tend to spend a lot of time, energy, and focus a remarkable amount of attention on things which have a very short life and that don’t provide much in the way of real, lasting value. We develop our bodies and we even exercise our minds in ways that make them stronger. These are good endeavors; yet, most of that effort does nothing to gain us a clearer perspective on things that have eternal significance.


If we want to be involved in efforts that have a life span that exceeds the moment, and we desire to expend our energy on an activity that brings real benefit to ourselves and to others; then, the best investment that we can make is in time with God’s Word. As we read God’s Word, we gain understanding of the Lord’s viewpoint on our own life. As we talk to God about what He is saying, we become more intimate with Him, and He becomes more real to us. The pages of His Word are amazing and even mystical in that they contain meaning and wisdom that is far greater than the sum of the mere words. The Spirit of the Lord speaks to His people in and through the pages of the text. As we read them we are taken into the heart of the author of truth, wisdom, righteousness, and love.


Time invested in God’s Word, whether it is a single verse or a long passage, will always pay great rewards. All of the beauty of the universe is contained within, and that beauty is granted context and lasting significance by the touch of its Creator. As we seek out the author and desire to know His heart, God blesses us with His presence in our lives. When we choose to decorate our hearts with the flowers of the Lord’s love, grace, and mercy, He blesses every day of our lives with His eternal presence. God’s Word leads us to Him, and He, in turn, takes us into His Word as an important aspect of the journey of faith that is our life’s great calling in Christ. So, as we follow Christ, we bring the glory of His presence into our world in the form of the unfading mercy, grace, and love that God has poured into each of us.


Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Joshua 21: 45


This is a bold statement; in fact, it is a very strong expression of the way that God had entered in to a complex series of events. Yet, it captures and encapsulates the experience that the Israelites had lived out under Moses and Joshua’s leadership as they left a state of slavery, journeyed across a hostile land, and fought to take possession of their given homeland. God had taken them out of their captive state, He had gone before them and provided provisions for their survival through those hard days in the harsh wilderness, and then the Lord had engaged in battle with their enemies and had provided the Israelites with guidance for their fights as well. Nothing that was good, needful, or redemptive came from a source outside of God’s hand. This was their reality; yet, unfortunately, it was a fragile one.


The Israelites, like many people across the course of history, lost sight of the character and the nature of God and of His wise counsel. They headed off in their own directions and sought after other, worldly forms of counsel and guidance. They entered into the worship of illicit gods and even began to offer up sacrifices of all types to these demanding concepts of what the divine should be; so, in the end, most of what God had granted to the Israelites was lost. Yet, God never turned away from them. He has continued to work out His redemption in and for them just as He has done the same for all people on this earth without regard to race, tribe, or other human attachment or affiliation. Jesus is the final and the ultimate answer to the good promise that God made to the Israelites and that He also made to all of creation. Jesus the Christ responds to each and every need that our bodies and our souls have in this life, and He comes into our lives with the full implementation of God’s love, grace, and redemption from sin and its death.


In Christ, we can all enter into the fulfillment of God’s promises of peace, joy, and meaning in this life. We also are granted His promise of eternity in full relationship with our Creator. This is a form of hope that is greater than all of the trials, struggles, and hardship that can come our way in life. The presence of Christ overcomes the oppressive powers of this world and all of their ill intent for us. Although we will encounter difficult times and even brutally harsh periods over the course of life, our feet are granted the solid foundation of God’s Word to stand firmly upon, and our hearts are surrounded by the presence of the Holy Spirit to shield and to guide us through these days of turmoil. The land that God has given to us as our place of dwelling may not have defined boundaries and borders as did the one that the Lord granted to the Israelites, but it is still very real and our possession of it is in every sense God’s love gift to us. As this new day dawns upon each of us, there is hope to be found in God’s promises of His goodness, there is peace and joy to be gained by and through the presence of Christ, and meaning and purpose are ours in following God’s will as our path of travel.

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