Merry Christmas! He’s a much bigger gift that you could ever imagine!

tempe-n-bearHave you ever gotten a gift for Christmas for which you hoped but never imagined that you would really get it? Surprise! You got it, and it was so much bigger and better than you could have ever imagined.

The other night my friend, Bill, told me that his granddaughter had won a 94 inch FAO Schwartz teddy bear at a local department store.  He showed me this picture of his granddaughter with the bear.  Look at the size of the gift and the size of the child!  Now, I’m not sure of what she was thinking when her parents told her that she had be given a giant teddy bear; but this bear was a whole lot larger than any teddy bear that she had ever seen.  What does a little girl do with a giant teddy bear?  My answer: she loves it as she begins to realize just how big it really is. Continue reading

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God’s Interruptions – part 2

In my Advent devotion, I encountered this thought: “When we surrender to God’s interruptions, we can rest in the knowledge that He always has a higher purpose for our lives.”  God reminded me of another Christmas interruption …

To the best of my recollection, it was just after noon on December 23.  I was just winding down my day at the church office.  Since our congregation didn’t do a Christmas Eve Service, I didn’t have to prepare for that. We did an evening Candle and Carol Service earlier in the week. The poinsettias from the poinsettia display had been delivered to the shut-ins, and gifts had been distributed from the Deacon Fund.  I was hoping to have a good handle on my next Sunday message before I left.  My plans to have a “relaxing” Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Bev and other family members was about to happen.  Then the phone rang …

Bev took the call. It was Joan, the Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. She needed some help. Their organization and the Salvation Army had distributed all their Christmas baskets, and she had just discovered three families that really needed help for Christmas.  Could our congregation help? I don’t recall if Bev placed her on hold and asked me the question or just responded, “Yes.”  At any rate how could we turn down Joan? She had helped so many people that we had referred to her.

So here is a list of three “families” who needed food and any other help we could give them before Christmas.  I knew that it was going to be my job to deliver whatever we could put together. I was not happy about the situation … why couldn’t people have planned ahead and put their name in for a basket?  Why did they have to interrupt my well planned day? I groused to God and to Bev; but I knew what Jesus would do, and I was supposed to be one of His followers. I would do it, but I wouldn’t be happy about it!

Fortunately, there was food in the church’s food pantry which could be supplemented with gift cards provided by the Deacon Fund that still had money in it even after all it had done already for Christmas.  I think there were still some poinsettias from the display.  So we gathered all that God had provided, and I set out to find three families in different parts of South Bend in the days before a GPS.

It’s been quite a few years since this happened; but I remember two of the three situations distinctly.  One family was an elderly man and woman of color.  He had kidney failure, and she was his caregiver, who helped him do peritoneal dialysis at home each night. The second family that I remember had a child with serious health condition, and the prognosis didn’t look good.  The third family was in a similar situation of need.  At each home, I got a warm grateful reception, and an opportunity to bring Good News and express God’s care for them in a tangible way and through my prayers for them.

It was such a moving experience that it was all I could do to contain my tears of repentance and joy until I was in my car after the last stop and headed home for a warm supper. Once again God had interrupted my day to express His love to people who were struggling, and I had become both blessing and blessed.

God’s Interruptions – part 1

During Advent in addition to my regular devotional reading, I like to read Scripture and thoughts that focus me on Jesus’ first coming to earth as a baby in Bethlehem and also on His anticipated coming again in full power and glory.  Advent is meant to be a time of preparation … not just to celebrate Christmas or the festival of His first coming but to help individuals and the church prepare for His Second Advent.

In yesterday’s devotion, I encountered this thought: “When we surrender to God’s interruptions, we can rest in the knowledge that He always has a higher purpose for our lives.”

According to my personality profile, by nature I am a highly structured person. I plan things out and work the plan. I get annoyed at interruptions, and yet if I am willing to accept it, God wants to interrupt my life for His higher purpose. As we approach Christmas, I’d like to share a couple of interruptions from years past where God interrupted, and I paid attention long enough to be a blessings and to be blessed. Continue reading

Questions Jesus Asked #89

Luke 10:36-37 – “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

      The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

      Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  NIV

Jesus concludes the Parable of the Good Samaritan with this question. He told the parable in response to an expert in the Law’s question, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus didn’t directly answer the man’s question, but asked him to draw his own conclusion from the parable.  I think that sometimes Jesus asks us to draw our own conclusions from what is written and how it is acted out in life.  Many times the answer is surprising to us as it appears to be surprising to this expert in the Law.  Jesus had just related a story in which the hero was a Samaritan.  Most devout Jews despised Samaritans for a variety of reasons including their mixed ethnicity, their separation from the Davidic Kingdom, their acceptance of only the Torah as Scripture, and their mixture of pagan elements into worship of Yahweh. Continue reading

Questions Jesus Asked # 88

Luke 10:25-29 – On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

     26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

    27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

     28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

     29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” NIV

Quite often Jesus answered a question with a question because He knew that people’s questions often come with a preferred answer. It’s like your spouse asking, “Does this outfit look good on me?” Continue reading

Questions Jesus Asked #87

Luke 7:44 – Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.”   NIV

This question is a continuation of Jesus’ dialog with Simon the Pharisee after Simon was visibly upset (offended) that a woman of questionable reputation came into his dining room and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. He seemed offended not only at the woman but at Jesus for allowing her to do such a risqué thing in his house. With the previous question and the follow up story, Jesus attempts to open Simon eyes to the woman’s motive for her actions.  Her motivation seems to be gratitude for God’s forgiveness and mercy.  One might assume that after hearing Jesus, she had made a life changing decision to follow Him and accept God’s love, mercy, and salvation. She was grateful. Continue reading

Questions Jesus Asked #86

Luke 7:39-43 – When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.”

            40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

            “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

            41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

            43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”

            “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. NIV

The occasion for this conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee named Simon was an incident that happened while Jesus was eating dinner at Simon’s house recorded in Luke 7:36-50.  Jesus and his disciples went to Simon’s house and reclined at his table … meaning that they were eating in the customary position of lying (probably on pillows) on their sides with their feet behind them.  A woman who had lived a sinful life in that town came up to Jesus’ feet and washed them with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with expensive perfume. It was a great display of gratitude, however considered very risqué by Simon when he considered who it was that Jesus let touch Him.  Simon thought that Jesus must not be a prophet or a man of God or He would know the sinfulness and reputation of this woman. Continue reading