Advent: Week 4

This Sunday, December 20, 2020, we make our way toward Love as it is the 4th Week of Advent. I know some celebrate this journey, week in and week out, and others don’t. But no matter if it is observed or not, the highlight focus on Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are paramount in this season. They help prepare us for the incredible, miraculous, supernatural arrival of Christ’s arrival, here, on planet earth, to fulfill the will of God.

Love is Who God is. It’s certainly one of His primary characteristics. Yes, He is also Holy. In these 2 chief descriptions, we can learn and know so much about Him. During Advent and in Christmas, He displays these and we witness the amazing grace that flows from His heart, plan, purpose, and will. It was spoken of hundreds of years before Christ came. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “A child will be born for us, a son will be given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. He will be named: Wonderful! Counselor! Mighty God! Everlasting Father! Prince of Peace! His government and peace will have unlimited growth. He will establish David’s Throne and Kingdom. He will uphold it with justice and righteousness, now and forever” (Isaiah 9, vv.6-7).

Isaiah and the people, along with generations before them, would not live to see this fulfilled. But it was, in Christ Jesus, when He was born. His advent, His arrival, fulfilled prophecies. Most importantly, however, His coming began the process of restoring the relationship that God so desired. It was, it is, and it will always be about God’s love for us (for you, for me, and for every other person He has/will ever give life to). No one is excluded. No one needs to be on the outside looking in. That is good news…the best news of all time!

In this Christmas Season, seek Him and you will find His love. It has been poured out. It has overflowed. Perhaps you don’t know where to start? Maybe your past, your life, hasn’t been so filled of love to this point? More good news: In believing, in coming to Him, in trusting Him as Lord and Savior–He will reorder and restart your life no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what baggage you’re carrying. Today is the day! God is love and His love wins…every time.

Merry Christmas!

What Best Captures Your Christmas?

I am posting this in the high likelihood that this will be my last blog post in calendar year 2017. With Advent progressing through the 3rd Sunday and with Christmas Day closing in, the schedule picks up considerably. There are appointments, visitations, a few counseling sessions, kids at home and coming in, travels to be made, etc. But it is Christmas, and there is much joy to be distributed, much love to be shared, and the greatest message of all time to be proclaimed: “Christ has come, He is here, and He is coming again!”

Bear with me (if you would) through this blog. There are a few things God has placed on my heart.

Here is a question I feel God puts before us (all of us) during this holy and precious time in the year: “What do you do with Christmas?” Now you can avoid it, discount it, or just put off answering it – but I am sure that at least sometime in this Advent Season – God places it in your heart and in your spirit.

If you have trouble grasping it, let me break it down a bit so it is a little more practical to face:

Is your celebration more sacred or more secular?
How do you treat people who believe ‘Jesus is the reason for the season?’
Since Christmas Eve falls on Sunday, do you purpose to celebrate with a 
local church / your local church, or do you think anything goes and you can
just skip it?
How do you blend Jesus, Santa, reindeer, and wisemen all at once?
Do you attend more get-togethers and parties than worship services
and outreach opportunities? How does that work out, if you do?

We all have these things that lay upon our hearts. And at some point, we should do our best to square-up and face truth. I only say this because our great God and Savior deserves it. He is worthy of our very best.

There are at least 4 choices on how we can approach Christmas (maybe there are more, but here are 4). Which one best resembles yours?

  1. Simply ignore Him. This is where trees, Santa Claus figurines, and stockings are o.k. but no nativity and nothing that shows the Advent of God’s Son. It’s where “The Night Before Christmas” is permissible but “Joy to the World” is banned. Let’s celebrate the festivities…but in secular style bypassing the religious altogether.
  2. Add a tad of religion and a hint of Christmas spirit. Find ways to be nice to people. Focus on ‘giving’ and not on ‘getting.’ Show up at a service on Christmas Eve, but only after really wondering if you should; and nearly talking yourself out of it 3 or 4 times on the way. Make a donation…give a gift…drop some coin in the Salvation Army kettle at your favorite store, and convince yourself you are a ‘good person.’ But for the most part – remain at arms length with God.
  3. Keep Jesus in the manger. Only see Jesus in the nativity scene and somehow neglect His life’s true mission and purpose. Attend and get really excited about the kid’s programs that feature the Announcement of the Angel, Mary and Joseph’s entire journey to Bethlehem, and the miracles surrounding the whole event – culminating with the Birth of Jesus on that 1st Christmas morn’. But by all means, just keep Him in the horse trough. That is where He is most comfy-cozy and really doesn’t interrupt life, patterns, and self-will. Save the Cross for the other season of the year, the one that comes in 3-4 months: Easter.
  4. Embrace Jesus the way He must be embraced, and worship Him. Genuinely celebrate His coming; realize He comes moment by moment in our lives; and know He is coming again in a much different way. He is our “Long Expected Jesus!” – always, and drawing closer to Him is not a choice, it is a deeply convicted desire. Focus on His grace, His hope, His joy, and His amazing love. And as odd as it may sound: Realize Jesus did not come to us, to planet earth, so that we could celebrate a birthday – but rather, grow deeper so that His first coming was to forgive us of our sins. That is the Good News! Jesus Christ is the reason for every season of the year. Period.

It took me years to see this, to better understand this, and to receive it fully. There were many Christmas’ where I had it all backwards and rode the fence in the lower ones. But with God’s help and lead, I now only desire #4 in the list and to remain here with #4 every single day/hour/minute/second/etc.

I will celebrate Jesus’ coming this Christmas! I will also celebrate it in February, in June, and in October. He has come, He is coming, and He will come again on that day. That is what I long for, in great anticipation. Have a very Merry Christmas adoring, celebrating, praising, and worshiping our One True King! He is worthy.


Joy of Every Longing Heart

This has been an incredible Advent Season, already. Here at Bridgeway Church, we have joined thousands across the U.S. in the recently released, “Long Expected Jesus.” It is an Advent journey that seeks to draw us in to the coming of Jesus Christ and help us prepare to receive Him this Advent. And within it, in following the devotional, praying each day, and seeking the Lord’s will – He has directed and guided us along the way.

From the song “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” written by Charles Wesley in the 1700’s, the last line of the first verse states, “Joy of Every Longing Heart,” I am reminded that it is surely God’s desire for His Son, our Savior, to be just that to all of us.

The people of Israel waited for centuries. They endured incredible hardship and challenge at the expense of the Romans and the religious elite that held power over them. The people so longed for the Messiah. For 400 years between the closing of the Old Testament and the opening of the New, I can just picture the desperation that they felt. The sense of longing that overshadowed them. And yet, for generations in that window – the longing intensified.

Until the First Advent arrived, and when God’s Son was sent in accordance with God’s will. Galatians 4, v.4 records: “In the fullness of time, God sent His Son into the world…” That is, in His infinite grace, love, and wisdom, at the precise moment of impact and in all of time as we know it, God came in the flesh for us.

That is what Advent is about. It’s about God’s love coming in the Incarnate Christ to set forth a new era and a new mandate. And that is, Jesus is the answer – He is the One – He is the prescription for all that is wrong. Advent is also about our preparation in the expectation of His arrival. It is not a “one and done.” He didn’t just come nearly 2,000 years ago. He comes and He shows up, today. He is “God with us” not “God was with us, at one time, in history.” He is here. And He will come again!

Come thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee…

We would love to have you and yours join us this Advent Season. We can believe, belong, and become together, and there is no better time to come, to know, and to believe (again) than Christmas. Let us encounter Him and journey together! Blessings to you all!


Even Though…He Comes!

Christmas Cross

Christmas Day! It is here. It is being celebrated all over the world. ImmanuelGod is with us!

Even though there are challenges, and decisions, and life-impacting events that are being felt and experienced at this very moment in life…God is with us!  The Word even declares this reality, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (see Romans 8, v.31). With His presence and with His truth, we can be sure He is able to lead us and direct us in it all.

I love this passage found in Luke’s Gospel: “Moved by the Spirit, he (Simeon) went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God saying, ‘…my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all nations…” (Luke 2, vv.27-32). Simeon had words of joy. I can’t even imagine being in Simeon’s position – to behold the joy that had come into the world – once and for all. God’s Plan was being wrought out and would be, as we know, for all people.

As our hearts are full today of so many things, let’s remember the greatest gift we have ever received: Jesus! He is the greatest gift anyone can receive and He is the greatest gift we can ever give away. Remember Simeon’s words of joy and hope, and remember that the same Holy Spirit who filled Simeon also fills us when we are overfilled with joy and our hearts sing and recite His truth (see/read Ephesians 5, vv.17-20). The Apostle Paul writes: “Always thank God the Father for everything in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5, v.20).

Pray this with me…

Abba Father (Daddy Father), I thank You and receive the gift of your Son with joy, appreciation, and full humility on this Christmas Day. Thank You for loving me so completely – that You came, took on flesh, and were one of us so that I would have life and life more abundantly. May my life display Your compassion and may it bring you glory. Help me to share the light of Christ with the world, and may others see You in me. In Jesus’ Name I pray…Amen!