97 Oh, how I love your instructions!I think about them all day long.
You know, Lord, I have done enough complaining about the aches and pains of aging. But there are some terrific advantages to getting older.
I am far more patient than I used to be. I enjoy people more and accept them as they are. And I have grown to appreciate regular quiet time with your Word. I used to be too busy–or thought I was too busy–to read my chapter a day. Now it’s the best time of my day. “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:97,111). My joys are now twice as big because I know that you sent them. My troubles are only half as big because I know you are carrying them with me.
Your Word explains the riddle of human existence. Your Word tells me the truth, comforts my heart, and gives me hope. Your Word reveals that you are actively managing affairs behind the scenes to work all things together for the good of those who love you. Your Word assures me that you will never stop loving me, that I have great worth in your sight, and that you still have a use for me.
Tell me in today’s reading how I may serve you best.
Lord Jesus, you took on my humanity and were born just like me. You honored the human race by living among us and as one of us. You offered your body on the cross, were buried like us, and rose again not only in spirit but in body too.
When you ascended into heaven, you brought your body with you! You took our humanity to the very throne room of heaven. You are now bonded to us into eternity. We praise you and worship you! We are honored by your total commitment to the rescue of the human race.
As for me, I can live joyfully and confidently because you have guaranteed my ultimate victory over death, grave, and hell. I can bear anything, undergo any hardship, absorb any sorrow, face any satanic attack, or endure any loss when I know that I will soon be with you.
I’m not worried about what I will leave behind here on this earth. You will replace it all and give me much more. But my greatest treasure in heaven, Lord Jesus, is you. I can’t wait to see you face-to-face. I am eager to give you my love and worship in person. “And I–in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
Come soon, Lord Jesus.
“Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.”
Christmas: “The most wonderful time of the year” (for most). For everyone except Worship leaders. Worship leaders get to have the pressure cast upon them of providing the ultimate worship experience for not only the churches regular attendees and family, but for those C & E Christians with drug problems (got drug to church) for one of maybe only two services out of the year. Statistically over 10 times more of our population visit a church of some kind during Christmas than any other time of the year. It’s followed at Easter with about twice the average.
In the case of many worship leaders the full load gets tossed on them to provide a huge production and be the focal point of the entire service. Others, like New Walk, choose a fairly normal service format with the minister still delivering the message. Some not only have a special production type service, but also a Christmas Eve service. Candlelight. Hours of cleaning wax out of the carpet.
A Worship leader will put in hours and hours of preparation and prayer. He or she will chew their fingernails in the quick. They will worry themselves to the point of not sleeping, afraid they have left out a small detail. When the rehearsals start, they are drained by every sour note, or choir members having their own little party on the risers while they are trying to direct.
I could go on and on, but we have a rehearsal to do. The reality is this though, that a successful Christmas program relies on one thing and one thing only. That one thing is God. If God isn’t in it, it’s just another group of people hanging out singing and playing music. If God isn’t in it, why would we even bother with the stress and jumping through all the hoops. Or reconfiguring the sanctuary to fit more people in. I mean, let them stand if there’s not room.
We won’t do that, and we’re not going to do that. We also are not going to leave God out of the service or out of the rehearsal. Instead, we are going to lift up the most high God, and we are going to Worship him, not just on Sunday morning but right here in this place at this very moment and every moment of every day.
There are many descriptions of the birth of Jesus. You know the ones with Mary being awakened by an angel and being told she was having a baby. And of course, the journey to Bethlehem and shepherds. All that stuff. But recently I was at the Chris Tomlin Christmas Concert in Orlando and had the honor of hearing Pastor Louie Giglio give a different spin on this whole Jesus and Christmas thing. I’m not Louie, but let me see if I can put a spin on it for you.
If you have ever looked though the bible you will notice first of all how much thicker the Old Testament is than the New Testament. The Old Testament takes us through creation. And then there are years and years of stories of people messing up and wars, floods, murders, and before long we start feeling like God is a pretty angry guy. He’s throwing down plagues and diseases, he is commanding people to kill. Heck, even his favorite guy, King David, from whom the blood line of Jesus descended from, had an affair with a married woman, and then had the husband killed. It was some messed up stuff.
The word of God was pumping all through the Old Testament. And then at the end of Malachi, it stopped. God stopped talking. The gap between the Old Testament and the New is about a 400 year period. For 400 years God was silent. Now I don’t know about you, but when I am getting the silent treatment I think something is up. Guys are you with me? When my wife isn’t speaking either she is depressed or angry! I believe that God got angry. And when he got angry he decided he needed to take a deep breath and regroup. Let the people feel what it’s like to be away from him. He was still there, but he was silent.
Then, after 400 years of silence God spoke. Now he could have spoken in this large bellowing voice of Thunder like James Earl Jones. “World, I Am You Father”. He could have had an opening act of a million angels singing “the Hallelujah chorus”. But it didn’t happen like that. After 400 years of silence God spoke through the sound of a little baby’s cry. In a cold cave, lying in a feed trough, at that moment God became flesh through the birth of his son Jesus and the faint cry of a small newborn baby was the sound God made. Come to live among us as human as possible, to feel our pains, face our temptations, and to save us from our sin. Born to die for you and for me.
In describing the birth of Jesus there are the depictions we read and tell about Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and Wise men. But the one from John explains it to me as clear as any picture of why God sent his son to this world.
The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Jesus, God born in the flesh, come down to save the world from all it had become and is still today. Jesus, light of the world. He came into this world to die the most horrific death one can imagine for you.
And now, we get to take a few hours and commit to serving him, by allowing God to use us as a vessel to deliver his message. To be the clay molded into whatever shape he wants to make us in order to do his work. Do you understand what kind of privilege that is? Do you understand that God has made you his disciple just for this very moment in time?
Sunday will be a busy day; a long day. You will be tired. Your throat will get a little sore, and the musician’s hands and feet will start to ache. And it will be very easy to get caught up in all of that. This Christmas I urge you to reflect of what has been said here. Show respect to Jacob, who has worked so hard to put this program together, by listening and being attentive to his instruction. Respect everyone else’s time by not wasting it with idle chatter. But most of all, honor God by giving your very best and keeping focused on him.
Group prayer circle: Prayer
Chorus: How Great Is Our God