Wednesday, December 14, 2016


How many things happen that are inconvenient to you, and maybe irritate you or steal your smile?

We love the times we find the perfect parking place, the store has just what we want in stock, people are on time, there's no line at the checkout, traffic flows smoothly, etc.—but how quickly the times that those things don't happen can get under our skin!

I was curled up and reading a book about Christmas recently, and the way the author worded something made me really think. How inconvenient it was for Joseph—already having his marriage and life plans thrown awry and having to wrap himself around the idea that his fiance was pregnant by God, and already having to travel with his pregnant wife (imagine if everyone in your state had to return to their place of birth at the same time!)—only to finally get where he was going with his wife showing signs of labor and then to find out there was no room at the inn!

But here's the crazy part about that too full inn . . .

. . . God, who plans the most minute details of a plant, who knows every hair on our head, who designs the intricacies of a cell and the unfathomable scope and beauty of a galaxy, had been planning that Christmas moment for over 4,000 thousands of years—likely for all of time as we know it!

Ephesians tells us that the cross was planned from before the foundation of the earth. Adam and Eve's sin didn't catch God by surprise, and the cross wasn't "Plan B." Then, from the Fall onward, Scripture is filled with prophetic details accurately giving us future glimpses of the birth of Jesus centuries before it ever took place—Bethlehem (which also means the census to get Mary there), a virgin, a name—Immanuel—and so on. And the New Testament, referring to Christ's birth, calls it "the fullness of time," which to me tells me all of time prior pointed to, focused on, and awaited that fulfilling moment of Christ's birth.

And yet, the inn was full! And a food trough for animals was the only available crib! Wow!

How could God have not known about, or overlooked, that significantly inconvenient moment?!

The thing is, there is really no legitimate way I can see to realize that the focus of the Creator had been on that moment for thousands of years, with every detail foretold, and to then not believe that He knew the inn would be full, and that a manger would be the only resting place available. Which means . . . that Joseph and Mary's "inconvenience" was a part of God's greatest plan.

And so, I need to look at the irritating "inconveniences" in my life and see what God is doing in them, because they surely don't catch God by surprise. Maybe in the next aisle or checkstand over there is a divine appointment—a person needing Christ's love. Maybe in the delay there is a divine appointment coming that wouldn't otherwise, or maybe I am being shielded from something, or it is bringing my life into contact with another's that otherwise wouldn't have happened. After all, would the shepherds have even been able (or comfortable) visiting the baby if He was in a small hotel room?

Never forget, when there are "inconveniences" in your life, that the inn was full—and that it didn't catch God by surprise.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Make it All About You!

This Christmas I want to encourage you to make it all about you!

I know. That isn't what you'd expect someone—especially a pastor!—to encourage you. I'll explain.

Christmas is often a time of being around family, friends, social gatherings, etc. In any of those environments there are often people that stretch your ability to love and be patient, or whose ways or words wound or challenge or anger you. Often there are people with whom there is a history and things hard to let go of. In this most beautiful of times, often the people we are around can strain us, and the times that should be the most wonderful can become the most ugly.

An account of a time in David's life has become one our family returns to often. It has a lot of bearing on this subject. It is told in 1 Samuel 25 and it involves a time when David sent men to an awful, rich man named Nabal, asking for food. David told his men, "And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’” (verses 6–8)

Well . . . Nabal is Nabal, and he basically mocks David and sends the men away with nothing and David responds by telling his men to strap on their swords. David said, “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him” (verses 21–22). In David's response his heart is revealed. He did good for Nabal, but he expected something back for it. And when he didn't get something back, he got angry and set off to sin, driven by his response to another man's ugliness and rudeness and ungratefulness—in response to another man's sin. And, this is our challenge—can we keep ourselves free from sin, despite the sins of others that drive us to anger, hurt, feeling walked on, etc.?

And so, I encourage you this Christmas season, if you are put into positions where the people around you make feelings rise in you that aren't Godly—make it all about you! Focus your heart and prayers on being the one who is Godly, regardless of how those around you might be. Fix your eyes on God and yourself, and purpose in your heart that each person's actions will be between them and God—but that their actions won't cause you to sin. Make it about you. Focus on you. Say, "I will love. I will respond with gentleness. I will not sin. Regardless of those around me. I will not let them have the power to cause me to sin. I will not change who I am with Christ in me, because of who they are."

How other people act is up to them, and between them and God. How I act is my responsibility. If I let another person cause me to sin, I have let them have more power over me then God in me has at the time. You and I can't do this on our own—we are weak, fleshly, and sinful without Christ. But with Christ in us, we can do all things. Christ showed us the way. He loved when not loved back. He served when unappreciated. He lived His life in response to God and not man. And He has promised us that in Him there is no temptation too great that there is not provided for us a way out. And to sin in response to another's sin is surely a temptation we all face.

Make it about you! Focus on you and your responses. Love others, but don't give them the power to quench the light of Christ shining out of you. It is Christmas! It is a glorious time of year. It is that time when many who otherwise might have hard and angry hearts find a little softness toward the message of Christ and we can not only tell, but we can show, the good news of great joy that is unto all people! But it begins with showing that Christ in us—our glorious Immanuel Christmas reality!—is greater than the power of the world to change us.


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