Becoming Brand New

Naturally, when we enter any new season, we seek to improve. We put on new routines and habits to improve our health, financial standing, and spiritual walk or faith. Several people will enter our purview and offer us some fad diet, new financial scheme, or even some new spiritual way to engage with God, but through the instruction of Jesus, the only way we truly become new is to give ourselves over to the radical transformation we are offered in following Christ Jesus.

Lent offers many of the same opportunities that the new year promises, but we must be aware that this is not just a time to start something new for the sake of starting something new. Rather we are called to reflect sincerely on what we have in our lives that draw us near to Christ and what things pull us away. Just as God made the Sabbath for humanity, God also gives us Lent to reflect on becoming a new creation and put ourselves in a position to serve God more fully.

We now reflect on the transformation Jesus offers Nicodemus and, in turn, the promise God makes for humanity by sending Jesus to the world. 

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:1-17(ESV)

Nicodemus saw the ministry of Jesus, and based on the face value, he knew that Jesus was more than just a good teacher, but that he had something different than the other teachers. Even today, we see teachers and leaders that show or promise great things, and we have a strange appeal to them. We often find ourselves looking at these teachers like Nicodemus looks at Jesus. However, when Jesus opens His mouth in response to Nicodemus, we see the difference between Jesus and someone just telling us something that sounds good because Nicodemus is befuddled by Jesus and needs further clarification.

Literalism and preconceptions often tie us down to our current understandings, or they cause us to throw everything out and fall into a lie. While Nicodemus certainly did not think Jesus was saying that one needs to come out of a literal womb a second time, he did need help guiding him to the fact that we all need to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus explains and does not rebuke. If we have trouble understanding, don’t settle for a literal understanding that doesn’t make sense, but rather we must go before God and ask for guidance.

As we seek guidance from the Lord, we must allow ourselves to be made new: mind, body, and soul. Some preconceptions need to be let go. As we encounter Jesus, we must be willing to let go of everything that we once thought and cherished for the sake of the kingdom of God. When we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us inside and out, we come face-to-face with our need to embrace our need for God in all areas of our life and not just superficially call out to God.

It was here that Nicodemus still struggled to hear what Jesus was proclaiming. He still wanted to hold onto the teachings, but Jesus said you need to be made fully new and let go of everything you held onto. Jesus tells him that he needs to give up everything and follow him and that if he chooses to continue in his old ways, it would be worse for him if he had never encountered Jesus and His teaching. Often the teaching we grew up on is ultimately the hardest thing to give up.

Jesus, throughout His ministry, asks people to give up everything and follow Him. This is the only way we can truly embrace the transformation of the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus struggled to let go of teaching, and the rich young ruler struggled to give up possessions. What do we struggle to give up? During the season of Lent, we often embrace giving up for a season, but Jesus asks us to give up everything to follow Him. However, Jesus gave up everything for our salvation.

God sent Jesus to save us, not condemn us. This requires a change of our mindset and a transformation of our hearts. God’s mission for us is to become new and transformed by the Holy Spirit. We are called to share this good news with the world and invite them to a relationship with the Holy One, the Creator of the Universe, because God loves us and His creation. May we not tarry to partake in this transformation, but may we be a people that are transformed and continually transforming into the new creation God calls us toward.

Forty Days and Forty Nights

Ash Wednesday opens up the season of Lent. This is typically a season where we focus on our relationship with God through reflection, sacrifice, renewal, and prayer. We examine how the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert after fasting for forty days and forty nights, and the devil subjected him to temptation. As we reflect on the devil’s temptations of Jesus, we can find that they are enticing and similar to our daily temptations. This Lenten season should be a season where we not only reflect on how we should respond to temptation but also as a time to prepare our hearts and minds for representing God in the way we act and speak.

Just as Jesus fasted during Lent, we can practice other disciplines to strengthen us to live obedient lives during this season. One of the most common Lenten practices is fasting, where individuals give up certain types of food or drink for self-denial and spiritual discipline. Some people choose to fast from all food for certain periods, while others give up certain types of food, such as meat or sweets. Many people use the season of Lent as a time of increased prayer and spiritual reflection. This may involve attending extra church services, praying the Stations of the Cross, or setting aside dedicated time for personal prayer and meditation. Some people use Lent to read and reflect on the Bible more deeply. This may involve reading through specific books or passages of the Bible, using daily devotionals or other reading plans, or attending Bible study groups. Lent is also a time for confession and repentance, where individuals may examine their lives and seek to turn away from sinful behaviors. Giving to the poor or performing acts of charity is another common Lenten practice. This may involve donating money or goods to a local charity, volunteering at a soup kitchen or food bank, or performing other acts of kindness for those in need.

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 4:1–11.

The narrative of Jesus in the desert follows the baptism by John and the Lord’s proclamation about Jesus as the Son of God. Instead of utilizing this proclamation as a powerful statement and marching through the region, Jesus fasts and prepares Himself for the temptations that will come. This forty days and forty nights parallels Israel’s forty years in the desert. However, Jesus succeeded where Israel failed. Jesus comes to bring victory where before we have only known failure.

“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

We want to be safe and secure, but we also often do things or eat things that are appealing more than doing things we need to do. When we are hungry, we will want to eat. Too often, however, we will fulfill that desire with that which is present more than we need. This is where we get the idea of not grocery shopping when hungry. God knows what we need, and it is imperative that we ask God to guide us to fill our needs and then look to where God can use us to fill the needs of others. Our sustenance and fulfillment cannot be found in purely material possessions or food, but we must lean into prayer, read the scriptures, and strengthen our relationship with God.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Jesus knew that he had power, but that God’s Will is what we need to be obedient to for the sake of the Kingdom of God, not for our own sake. This is the magic spell test. We think that if we say the right prayers, read the right scriptures, or do the right disciplines; then God will do what we want. We are tempted to manipulate God to our will. God loves us and wants good for our lives, but in our obedience to God, we are not to attempt to persuade God to give us more because we are good, because our good is like filthy rags when compared to Jesus.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”

Power and wealth will attempt to lead us toward serving something other than God. However, they will lead us into a dangerous, self-serving spiral that pulls us away from God. The temptation that Jesus would have felt was something that was not sacrificial but rather self-serving and would have led to a power that would have been something that some Jews would have expected. The worship of the world’s power is enticing but winds up bowing to something less than God. When the followers of Jesus eschew the power offered by the world and lean into the sacrificial love of Jesus, we do not allow the world to dictate what power looks like and embrace the power found in God’s love.

Obedience to God won’t have the look of triumphant self-assertion, nor by embracing power and authority, but only through humility, service, and suffering. Let us be mindful of the temptations we face and seek to overcome them through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us rely on the Word of God for sustenance and trust in his will for our lives. And let us serve only God, seeking to honor him in all we do. During the march toward Easter, we remember that God is the true source of power in the world and that even though we face temptation, through practicing obedience, the Holy Spirit will empower us to defeat the temptations in our lives and live obediently to the will of God.

Pay Attention

Look Around. Movements and blessings surround us everywhere we are, and everywhere we go. People will see something and elevate it if it aligns with a previously held point of view. If, however, that thing that happens does not align with their point of view, they will dismiss it. As we turn to the scriptures, we must understand that we are to pay more attention to what the Holy Spirit is doing in our surroundings than listening and reading pundits or seeking out websites to proclaim what is good and bad. Let the Holy Spirit be our guide as we read the text.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV)

What have you experienced in your faith journey? Before looking up what someone else thinks, you need to look at how you have been affected by God’s Grace. While our journeys with God will take many turns and twists, we can lean into our experiences to guide God’s truth. Peter goes on to express that the truth in the scriptures was not just found in the ancient texts but alive in front of him. We testify about a book written long ago and how God has brought the book alive in front of us. 

Looking at Scripture grounds us in the truth of the Gospel. We cannot find our way eventually to Scripture, but scripture has to be the grounding element in our minds and hearts. If God guides you through scripture, be confident you will find peace. This doesn’t eliminate us from looking for the truth in God’s creation but rather reminds us to seek out God’s truth in the Word, the world, and the history of the world.

The Holy Spirit moves among us, just as Jesus walked with the people during His time on Earth. We need to pay attention to the words around us and through us. His creation prophecies about the Kingdom of God instruct us on how to live. Humans seek to manipulate words, we see it all around us, but the Word of God must come forth through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just because someone quotes scripture doesn’t mean they are speaking for God, for you also need the Holy Spirit, so test the words against all of scripture. The Holy Spirit is alive among us right now. As we move forward, let us remember that we aren’t alone but that the Holy Spirit will reside with us through all, and we need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to lead.

As we look back at our life, we must examine and pay attention to the areas where God was present. These point us to the scriptures and God’s Holy Word, and even though people may try and manipulate our experiences for their gain, we must lean into the Scriptures with the Holy Spirit as our guide to see where God wants us to move. Testimony leads to Scripture as Guided by the Holy Spirit.

This Choice Is Simple

A Reflection on Deuteronomy 30:15-20

In creating humanity, God wanted to give people choices. In doing so, the freedom to choose our path has been fraught, with people often choosing the path that leads to brokenness and chaos. The choices made guide humanity toward or away from the good that God intends for us. Whether we embrace opportunities to share in the blessings or avoid challenges, our choices lead us on our path.

If you chose one job over another, living in one area, or joining in versus sitting on the sidelines, these all have led you to where you are today. History is full of people who made choices that were often hard to make. Choices have repercussions. Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat in Montgomery, Alabama, set off a chain reaction toward a civil rights movement in the United States. A choice helped change the course of history.

God changed the Israelite’s history through Moses’ arrival in Egypt. No longer caught in the trap of enslavement, they were now free to make more choices. It didn’t take long for them to use their new freedom to complain about how good it was in Egypt or for them to create idols for them to worship. The Israelites show us that freedom to choose will often lead us to unhealthy choices. This tendency to make bad choices leads to the confrontation we see in the passage of Deuteronomy found below.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (ESV)

The people were doing their own thing, complaining about the process, and God reminded them of their ability to choose instead of scolding or punishing them. This generous response from God reminded the people of their most incredible power, the power to choose. God gives them a choice because He desires them to have the freedom to engage with Him in a relationship, not enslavement or bondage. However, there are consequences for rebellion and benefits for obedience. At this point, God lays a pro and con chart for them.

At a cursory glance, God’s list for the people doesn’t appear to be a choice, as one choice leads to “life and good” while the opposing decision is “death and evil.” From this point of view, God sounds like a parent saying to their child, “because I said so,” or the threat of a bully, “do this or else.” However, in the context of God releasing the people from bondage in Egypt and watching them wander around in the wilderness, we see God tenderly warning the people that how they behave is dangerous and detrimental and will ultimately lead to their destruction. God is like the father of the prodigal son, giving him what he asked for but going the extra step and reminding the son that their behavior will lead to despair. Ultimately, God cared for the people of Israel, not only those fleeing from Egypt but the generations that followed, and implored them to give up their evil ways and turn back to God.

Our sin keeps us away from God, and temptation surrounds us and opportunities to choose evil over good and death over life. God knows this and sent us a lifeboat when Jesus came to Earth. The Gospels present a picture of where the choices made by Israel had led them. A foreign nation conquered them; their faith became a tool of the powerful to oppress the weak; the people divided themselves into opposing groups. The result of sin is horror and death, just like the warnings stated; therefore, the people needed a Savior, and Jesus fulfilled this need. Jesus calls us to forgo sin and follow Him because in Jesus comes victory over evil and death, and obedience to Jesus is good and life-giving. While sin still knocks at our door, Jesus offers us a simple choice; give your burdens, your sin, and your heart to Him, and life, goodness, and blessing will follow.

That is the grace of God; choosing God is simple because of Jesus. There are no special rules you need to follow, no special process to find the right way to follow God. Choose to love God and love God’s creation, all people, not just the ones you like. God makes things simple for us because Jesus did the heavy lifting.

God Is Our Guide: Respond With Faith Over Fear

Fear often grasps ahold of our hearts, especially in uncertainty. However, God has established that our trust should be completely given over to Him at all times. The enticement of fear that calls out to us in the midst of any disorder or chaos is paralyzing and leads us toward destruction. The antidote to inaction and fear is faith in God. We must firmly place our eyes upon God, even when the floodwaters rise or when the flames look like they will consume us. God does not allow the world to consume us, but rather he will go to the greatest lengths to save us. He even sent Jesus, His only Son, to guide us into faith and away from fear. Jesus went to the cross to defeat death and bring hope, peace, and grace to us. Therefore, we must place our faith in Christ to carry us out of our current troubles.

ISAIAH 43:1-7

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Our Praise Needs To Be New, and Our Loyalty Needs To Be Undivided

Isaiah 42:10-17

God’s entrance into the world is a reason for rejoicing and proclaiming His wondrous deeds. God will triumph, and we must give Him the praise and honor, and all things of this world will pass away, but God and His Kingdom are eternal; therefore, we must keep ourselves from putting anything above God in our hearts and minds.

New Year, New Praise

Just as we talked about New Years’ and New Resolutions last week, the Epiphany of the Lord reminds us that our praise and devotion must be made new daily, even in the cycle of life. Often, we allow our praises and prayer to become routine and rote. However, we must remember that the God we serve is worthy of our prayers, and just as we have new experiences and new reasons for prayer and praise, we must incorporate that into our worship life and not hold anything back. The purpose of worship and praise is to honor God and not only check items off the to-do list. Therefore worship must be an expression of our utmost devotion, and we must have undivided loyalty to God. Isaiah warns Judah of the results of divided loyalty and that the people must always serve God far above and beyond any other objects or items clamoring for our devotion.

Isaiah 42:10-17

10 Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. 11 Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops. 12 Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim his praise in the islands. 13 The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout, he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. 14 “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. 15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools. 16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. 17 But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.

Bring Praise Everywhere We Go

Just as God goes everywhere with us, we must bring our praises for God everywhere. These cannot merely be the same prayers that we have said repeatedly, but rather these praises must be authentic, bringing our experiences, thoughts, and feelings to God in worship. Many things are pulling us to veer our gaze away from what the Almighty is doing in our hearts. Still, the faith we have in God, the praise we bring to God must be new and continually being renewed in the face of the hurts and fears and in the presence of all the things that grab our attention and pull us away from God.

As we look at the world’s events, temptation leads us to react out of an abundance of hurt and pain, but it depends on us to remain focused upon God. We must rededicate our hearts to worship and praise of God and a renewed spirit of prayer that lead us to where God would have our hearts, our minds, and our focus. If we trust in God and praise God new, then we understand that God wants our hearts even in our pain. We cannot condone the ways of this world that depend on hurting and violent acts, but instead, we must ask God to leads us in teaching the world to love people, give hope to all people, and be the peacemakers that Jesus calls blessed.

God Conquers All

We do not need to focus on being the traditional warrior because God is the warrior. God calls us to serve, and our Service to God must be our paramount focus. Service is antithetical to a call to pick up arms and is preferably a call to place our faith in God. We must firmly believe that God can conquer anything in this world or outside of this world. Trust in God renews our faith, and we must continuously act toward renewing our faith in God daily. When we live with a renewed confidence that God conquers all of His enemies, then we can focus more fervently on how God wants us to act and behave in our world. If we live our lives in such a way that speaks anything other than serving an all-conquering God, then we must re-devote our hearts to God.

However, we should sit back and ignore what is going on, but instead, it is an opportunity for Christians to stand up for God’s truth in the world. That truth calls the church to bring God’s love in all we say and do, to embody God’s hope and share it with others, and to ensure all people are made whole, and that we strive after peace. Otherwise, we follow the world into destructive practices that God will ultimately conquer and destroy.

Be Led By God and Not Idols

If we listen and pray and read scripture with a mind toward renewal, God promises to lead us, even if we are blind. This type of renewal is like you are reading scripture for the first time. Many people look upon the Word of God and have the audacity to think that they don’t have anything more to learn from a particular passage. In reality, our arrogance and previous readings blind us to God’s light. We must look to God when we read any scripture and ask God to show us and lead us to the truth, and if we are faithful, God will lead us, bringing light where our previous knowledge may have left us in the dark.

Anything can become an idol. Previous teachers, pastors, church leaders, political figures, sports figures, celebrities, kings and queens, ideologies, and countries all become idols and threaten to pull us away from God. None from the previous list will be able to save you. Many of the people at the time of Christ looked for their salvation in things of the world. They looked to politicians, to warriors seeking to throw out Rome, to kings with false lineage, teachers, and even the church for salvation, but God brought salvation in an unorthodox way. Jesus came, and people called him by many of the names shown above. However, God brought Christ to lead the people through sacrificial love and through the Holy Spirit’s power that is far above the power of this world.

Devotion to anything or anybody other than God is idolatry, and we must be careful in all that we say and do to give our allegiance to God and God alone. Our lead must come from God and not from man. Only then can our praise and our faith be made new.

The Promise Fulfilled, A Hope Realized, and Love Expressed

A Reflection on Luke 2:1-20

Advent is the beginning of the calendar, and every year, although different, is a cycle that does not end, and the wreath before us is a circle with no beginning and no end. Just as the calendar comes around every year, there are changes throughout the year, and there are differences around the wreath, but God is the same, and God is present with us at all times. As we turn to the wreath this Christmas Eve, we turn our gaze upon the light brought into the world through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Several weeks ago, we began with a reflection upon focusing our hearts, our minds, and our bodies for the coming of the King. With our hearts and minds, we recall the prophets speaking about the coming Messiah, which would liberate and free His people, the incarnate Holy God that would usher in His Kingdom, and a new age for God’s people. The prophet Isaiah instructs us through his prophecy, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned. For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:2,6) With this perspective, we see that God has embodied hope through the sending of His Son.


In response to the hope, we prepare for the coming of Jesus. In our hearts, we work for the cause of justice and peace in our world, preparing for Christ’s return, when he will establish justice and PEACE for all the world. God sent His messengers to invite us to prepare for Christ’s coming by working for God’s Peace for everyone. The prophet Micah was one of those that foretold of the coming PEACE that Jesus Christ would bring, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” (Micah 5:4) We are invited to join with the prophets of the past and participate in preparation for the future coming of the Lord.


With our eager anticipation of God’s advent, we embrace the JOY we have been given and respond with worship. Even in our hard times, we rest in the knowledge that Christ came to the Earth, bringing Joy to all humankind. “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on, all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Luke 1:46-49). Today we follow Mary’s lead and allow our hearts to be filled with JOY and wonder as we contemplate what our loving God has done for us.


We love God, but it is because God first loved us. We have been called to follow the example of God’s LOVE, demonstrated through the self-sacrificial example of Jesus Christ embodying God’s merciful grace. May we remember that God calls us to show one another LOVE through kind acts, compassionate giving, and abundant grace this season. This LOVE puts others above self and reflects the LOVE of God shown upon this world. John reminds us, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11). Today, we seek to demonstrate God’s love for the world, and we look to the story of how Jesus was born.

The Birth of Jesus as told in Luke

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Jesus Has Come to Earth

Advent has led up to this moment, this time and place. A place dictated by the government, fulfilling the prophecy, and carried out by two obedient servants. Bethlehem, a town meaning the house of bread, would become the place where God would bring his nourishing grace into the world. However, this place was not a place where the world would recognize as a seat of honor, but rather the accommodations were lowly and underwhelming.

However, Jesus was given the care of a mother, wrapped in cloths, swaddled, given security, even in the conditions where they had only a modest place to stay. They used what they had, a manger, to help give Jesus a safe place to sleep. Mary and Joseph’s love for Jesus was apparent even if they did not have the room they required on that night more than 2000 years ago.

This was not a night just for this small family; it was a night for the world. The angels announced to the world that the Savior of all humanity was born in Bethlehem. This night is a night for singing, for rejoicing, for proclaiming the embodied love of God for all humanity. The shepherds came to witness what the angels had declared, and their hearts were changed because God’s love for humanity was expressed clearly with the birth of His Son.

Tonight, we come, gathering around an Advent Wreath, lighting candles, and singing God’s praise. May our hearts and lives be changed because Jesus Christ, Savior of humanity, and Son of God, has fulfilled the promise of God, as a realization of the Hope we have waited for and an expression of the loving grace of God.

God’s Kingdom Prevails Over All

In a few days roughly half the population will rejoice, while the other half will feel some sort of dismay about the results of the election in the United States. However, no matter the results of the election God’s Kingdom will prevail, because God cannot be thwarted by the acts of man. Israel in the face of humiliation and conquering would have to understand that God would prevail over the conquering nations, and that God’s grace would provide relief in the face of despair.

When we look to the world for help, we will not find what we need, or even what we want. Help from the world often falls short, and at best is only temporary. Our politicians, no matter their party, Republican, Democrat, or even Birthday, are evidence of empty promises that fulfill their purposes, but when we place our faith in God, we are not disappointed, but rather we find fulfillment, and grace. God’s grace will prevail over any circumstance, and we are called to embrace it by placing our faith FIRMLY in God.

As we turn to Isaiah 33, we see God warning the nations that even though they think they have control and superior to those that they had vanquished, but God reminds them that He is in control, and will conquer them.

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. 3 At the uproar of your army, the peoples flee; when you rise up, the nations scatter. 4 Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts; like a swarm of locusts people pounce on it. 5 The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. 6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

Isaiah 33:2-6 (NIV)

To ask for grace is to confess that all human effort has proven futile and no human merit can warrant salvation. From foolish trust in tribute to Assyria, the king and his people put total trust in the Lord of hosts. Like a convicted criminal, they throw themselves on the mercy of the highest court. In this is the confession that they hold no alternative except total dependence on the power of God to save them. Trust then opens their eyes to see the Lord plundering the plunderer and tricking the treacherous into utter confusion and shameful flight. By waiting upon the Lord with penitent spirit, Hezekiah and his people got a confirming glimpse into the vision of God that Isaiah had already seen. God is exalted in His majesty, His justice, and His righteousness. His ways and the knowledge of His Word are acknowledged as the only source of stability and strength for the nation. As for the future, the “fear of the Lord” will be a treasure of hope.

Our sin leads to judgment, separation, and destruction.

Over and over again in Isaiah and in our lives, we repeat the sequence of judgment and comfort. God provides for us an expression of justice and peace, and our sin needs to be dealt with and God’s judgment took care of that for Israel, but Jesus takes care of it in ours, stepping into history to break the cycle. When we sin, when we fall short of God’s glory, we allow our hearts to be guided and instructed by something other than the Gospel. This has an adverse reaction in our lives, we separate ourselves from God, and from each other. Because of this separation, we are vulnerable to attacks and destruction. If we look at our life, if we find ourselves separating from one another, we need to ensure that we are not causing division, but rather ask God to come close to us and bring us closer to His Kingdom and mission in the world.

We cannot allow our faith to rely upon our circumstances.

Judah sought peace with their invaders through bribes and tributes, but the invaders took the tribute, and scoffed at it, and continued to march against Jerusalem. They put their faith in objects to keep the peace, but they failed. We need to make sure that we don’t put our faith in things to lead us to peace, because only God is able to bring peace to the world. God’s peace overwhelms the world. God’s justice fills the temple and churches. Therefore, our faith must be in the Almighty, no matter what is happening all around us.

God is ready to use us, by calling us out of sin and into faith.

Worship provides Judah with stability in the midst of trouble. For God uses chaotic events are understood to serve God’s purposes. They will promote justice and righteousness which are not adequately served in our world. If we are able to step out of the chaos and trust God wants us to let go of all allegiances and follow Him, then we will rise above the conquerors and bring forth God’s Kingdom into the world. We are God’s treasure, there is no election result, no circumstance in life, nothing that separates us from God’s love. God is calling to us to be his servant in this world. 

God’s fulfilling mission is never a random act, but rather God enacting justice and grace in the world. This is executing the purpose of God into a world that is moving counter God’s mission and Kingdom. But the episode turns from the scene of chaotic defeat and plunder to celebrate Yahweh’s place in and above it all. God is in history. He determines its critical changes. There is even purpose in apparent chaos. Beyond that, God provides his most precious treasures in the sanctuary where one celebrates “the abundance of salvation, wisdom, knowledge, and fear of Yahweh,” that is, the total spiritual and worship benefits which faith makes possible for those who know themselves to belong to him.

The fact that we continue to sin reminds us that we still are products of the world. This Sunday is known as Reformation Sunday, which points to the divisions within the church. Our lives must work toward remembering that our faith must guide us away from the powers of this world into the power of the Holy Spirit. If we focus upon the power of the Holy Spirit, God uses us to bring peace, righteousness, wholeness, and grace to the world.

Called From The People To The People

For many years, we have been attending church without realizing that our calling goes beyond just attending church, but instead, to be the church. Being the church requires us to recognize who we are, recognize our sin, and recognize that our humanity is an asset as we approach our community with the Gospel.

As we look through the first five chapters of Isaiah, we see that God admonishes Israel for not being any different than the world around them, and, unfortunately, this will lead to consequences. Judah will fall into the hands of its oppressors, and invaders will cast the people into exile. When we speak with people, we mustn’t do so thinking we’re better than the world. We are equals with the world, we are sinful, we are guilty, and it is Jesus Christ that came and took away our guilt; therefore, our salvation does not come from self-righteousness but the righteousness of Christ.

Isaiah, like us, was among the people he sought to reach with God’s message. He brought the message of hope in the face of the disruption, and a promise that God’s message will withstand any challenge in the presence of exile and an earthly conquering force. Turning to Isaiah, chapter six, the prophet describes the experience of God calling him to his prophetic ministry and how God uses this fallible human to share an infallible truth to the world. In this chapter, God calls us to focus our eyes upon whom the King of Kings calls and how that calling establishes us as the perfect instrument to play the message of God’s grace for the world.

Isaiah 6:1-13

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; 

the whole earth is full of his glory.” 

4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 

5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” 

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” 

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 

9 He said, “Go and tell this people: 

“ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; 

be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 

10 Make the heart of this people calloused; 

make their ears dull 

and close their eyes.  

Otherwise they might see with their eyes, 

hear with their ears, 

understand with their hearts, 

and turn and be healed.” 

11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” 

And he answered: 

“Until the cities lie ruined 

and without inhabitant, 

until the houses are left deserted 

and the fields ruined and ravaged, 

12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away 

and the land is utterly forsaken. 

13 And though a tenth remains in the land, 

it will again be laid waste. 

But as the terebinth and oak 

leave stumps when they are cut down, 

so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

While it may seem odd that Isaiah puts this personal narrative in the sixth chapter, Isaiah is ensuring that the emphasis is on the prophecy, or message from God, not on the prophet or messenger. The passage opens up by describing when Isaiah received the call from God, at King Uzziah’s death, the earthly King of Judah. Isaiah has to deal with an image of the King of Kings filling the temple. In this place, the heavenly beings are praising the triune God, and their praises shook and filled the temple. When in the presence of the Almighty God, Isaiah recognizes his wanting. Every sin, every slight, every way he is not worthy in God’s presence, becomes abundantly clear. With clarity, Isaiah confesses not only his sin, but the sin of the people, and they all are desperately in need of God’s cleansing. The cleansing begins with Isaiah’s mouth, to prepare him to deliver and speak God’s Word to the people. 

After making Isaiah clean, the Triune God gives the call to speak God’s message to the people, which Isaiah answers in the affirmative. However, this chapter doesn’t end here; instead, it goes on to speak judgment against a people that have heard about what God wanted from them, but instead, they ignored God’s message, and because of this, Judah will be ravaged and left in ruins. However, this is not the final judgment, and Judah can find solace in the fact that after this judgment, God will have a portion that will stand up and be a Holy seed for the Lord. The remnant exemplifies God’s promise that they are not forsaken and left to remain in ruins, but rather He will restore His Kingdom, even out of the stumps.

There is no King except for God!

The death of a king, time for a transition of power, is the perfect setting for this encounter with the Holy Triune God. Isaiah enters the temple and sees God sitting on the throne. This vision immediately points to the King of Kings and a reminder that the Hebrew people rejected God as their King and asked God to give them an earthly king. There is an opportunity for Israel to repent from the rejection of God, because this image of God is unmistakably much greater than any human King, and the heavenly beings recognize that the triune God is Holy Holy Holy, unlike any other being.

The temptation to become a king is dangerous. Satan knew this and offered Jesus kingdoms in exchange for worship. However, Jesus called his followers to submit their worship only to God; by doing this, we do not put anything in front of God, and instead, we allow God alone on the throne.

The danger to us is worshipping our creation, but this worship is incongruent with worshipping God. The power the world offers is intriguing; it provides us comfort, importance, and glory. Nothing we worship could compare to the Almighty God, as they could not cause the heavenly beings to hide their face and feet and bow down, proclaiming the Holiness of God. Therefore, we must actively set everything aside to give our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength to the Almighty, and crown Him the KING over us.

God chooses us because God is Holy, not because we are perfect.

The holiness of God guided Isaiah toward understanding and confessing his sin and confessing that he is a product of Judah’s iniquity. Nothing Isaiah could have done would make him worthy of God’s call, and his recognition of his corruption allowed God to provide holiness and purity to Isaiah. Cleansing of Isaiah’s mouth prepares his mouth for sharing God’s message with the people.

Similarly, when calling his disciples, he recognized that they were not perfect, made abundantly clear as we hear their stories throughout the New Testament. Thus when Christ calls to His disciples, He acknowledges and knows that there is nothing they can do to make themselves holy, but they needed God to intervene, and Christ makes the disciples holy through His death and resurrection. Even at Pentecost, Jesus fulfills His promise through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As Christ’s followers, God calls us to serve, while flawed, broken, and full of sin. God demonstrates His holiness by using imperfect vessels and making them perfect for His mission in the world. However, the first things we need to do are confess that alone we are not worthy and that we need Christ’s salvation to save us. Once we submit to the cleansing of God, then we are ready to echo Isaiah and respond to God with our preparation to serve the Kingdom of God. 

We share the Gospel, but the Gospel is not always easy to share.

The message Isaiah brought to Judah was not going just to be a blessing, but instead, it tells the people that even when they were looking right at God, they were not going to recognize him. It didn’t matter how clear the message was going to be; sin hardened the people’s hearts against the mission of God. The people needed cleansing, and God would clean them up, but the cleansing required the destruction of their norms. Isaiah found this a difficult message to deliver and asked God to clarify. However, the grace is found through God’s remnant, as the ultimate salvation will come from the surviving stumps.

Jesus comes from the remnant and springs forth to guide the church toward a ministry. However, the disciples did not understand that ultimately God’s Gospel required the death of Christ. Christ spoke this Gospel message through parables, and the message had to be broken down into stories to connect to the lives of the people so that they may see the Gospel more clearly. 

It is hard to share the Gospel because the Gospel’s values are often contrary to the values we find around us. The quest for power, self-preservation, and self-aggrandizement is contrary to the message of the Gospel. Therefore, asking our neighbors to change is not easy; asking the world to submit to a power outside the world is challenging; however, Christ calls the world to become obedient and worship the Almighty God. Many will object to this call, but God still calls us to deliver His message.

When we acknowledge that God is greater than all the things we have given a voice in our lives, then we are called to respond with confession and submission to God’s mission in the world. We cannot make ourselves good enough, but God makes us clean, so He can use us to carry out His call in our lives. However, that will is not easy, but we must share even when the world rejects the message.

Through Christ’s death, we are made Holy, but we must frequently submit to the call. We must understand that we come from the world, and there are many things we do that reflect that we are a product of our worlds. We are human; therefore, we are not immune to the problems that the world has to deal with, which makes us the perfect witness to God’s saving grace.

The church must make ourselves aware that we have made idols out of our traditions. It is hard to give up old traditions because these are the things we have done and seen God move through these traditions; therefore, we cling to that experience. However, when the tradition gets worshipped above the Almighty, we shut down the outward ministry and turn the church inward, contrary to God’s mission for the world.

As people from the world, God wants to use us to bring His Word into the world. We must remember that God’s ministry is not ours and that we must humble ourselves to what God desires of us. Ministry begins with worship and giving entirely of ourselves to whatever God desires, because often God’s desires may not always align with what we want. Therefore, when our actions align with Christ, we humbly share the Gospel with the world.

God Doesn’t Give Up On Us

A question we may ask when looking at our nation; Is this even worth redeeming? How should the church look at our surrounding world? We see hatred and violence; we see a world with rampant problems with justice, corruption, greed, and violence. As we look at the world, we wonder, is it worth saving? As Isaiah looked at Israel, he was dismayed at the injustice, the lack of desire to serve God, the casting aside the orphans and widows, and selfishness that Israel had been practicing. He urgently wanted to get their attention that they needed to REPENT and turn back to the way God had established for them.

One word defines our time, DIVISION. People are at odds with one another because they worship, dress, cook, or work differently. If there is more than one way of doing something, there will be an argument over it; as a people, we fight with one another over everything, even what ride is the best at Disney will cause people to argue in earnest. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that our politics are as contentious as they are. The power of the world thrives on division, but God calls us to unity, so we may be dismayed that we are far from where God wants us to be. Still, God reminds us that He loved the world enough to send Jesus to die for our sins and that we can be a part of God bringing peace and unity back to the world. 

Isaiah had this hope and reminded Israel that God would bring hope, peace, and His pure love to the world. God will clean up the filth and make it beautiful again. Let us turn to Isaiah, chapter four, to look at Isaiah proclaiming this over Israel.

Isaiah 4:2-6

2 In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. 3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. 5 Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything, the glory will be a canopy. 6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. 

The previous chapter in Isaiah details the sin of Judah and the results of that sin, as it will lead to the destruction of the nation. The nation that God set apart, or made HOLY, had become full of corruption and injustice. The country had turned away from God. In this passage, Isaiah echoes Isaiah 2:2-5, where he tells those that remain faithful to God will serve as a sign to the world that sin cannot thwart God’s mission, but rather God will redeem the world through His people, through His Holy Nation, through His Church. God cleans the nation of its iniquity and protects from the storms that come.

God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

God has not changed His redemptive purpose for Israel’s children, and Isaiah has not lost this hope for his people. So, as he began this series of prophecies with God’s original vision for the house of the Lord (2:2–5), he ends the series with God’s vision for Judah and Jerusalem after their suffering in conquest, and their exile has passed. While our current circumstances may lead us to doubt God, God will remain by our side, God is going to guide us through the darkest night, and His ultimate message to us is to have HOPE. The effects of sin cloud our vision of God’s providence, however through God’s grace, the power of love and peace break through the darkness and show us that God desires us to place our faith and trust in Him.

Although God protects us, we are not immune to the painful results of sin.

The cost of sin, which is rebellion against God, is exile and facing conquering at their neighbors’ hands. Judah could not escape the fact that the nation was facing expulsion because of their fighting with God and would not eat the land’s good. While they remained God’s People, they still had to face the results of their sin. The wages of sin is death; Paul reminds us. Jesus Christ gave His life on our behalf that we may not suffer the ultimate consequences of our sin, but we are not immune to the results of our faithlessness or turning our backs on God’s calling in our lives. Sin is a deadly disease, far more lethal than CoViD-19. Even though God rescued us from the fatal consequences, our bodies, minds, and actions are still affected and show symptoms of our infection. So too, many in our world are showing signs of infection and are desperately in need of the cure, the healing that can only exist in Christ Jesus. What are we prepared to do to bring those around us into the shelter provided by God?

As the church, we aren’t just survivors but are glorified by God to be His light amid the world’s darkness.

The survivors or remnant of Israel and Jerusalem demonstrate to the world that they were not just survivors, but that God could pull them through their circumstance. They were thriving in a post-exile life, not to become what they were before, but instead, they would grow into a nation that establishes justice and embraces God’s holy mission for them in the future. The world is full of danger, and the storms will surround us. Some want to prevent the mission of the church from moving forward. We cannot be afraid of confronting the dangers because we remember our hurt, but instead, we must be willing to put our mission out into the world, with complete knowledge of God’s protection. The early church grew unafraid of the circumstances of the first century, facing persecution from Rome. They went out into the world, knowing that God’s grace was upon them. GOD’S grace didn’t make them immune from deadly circumstances, like Stephen, but they knew God had made them secure eternally. Horizon will emerge from our current circumstance, which can feel like an exile at times. We will once again have in-person services. However, we do not know when we know that the God we serve is preparing us for something that will be life-giving in the midst of death. Right now, as a church, we need to prepare our hearts and souls for walking in God’s glorious light and going out into the world to bring God’s grace to our community.

God did not prevent Judah’s exile, for the results of their sin led to tragedy and being driven from their land. However, God used exile to prepare the nation to fulfill a greater calling to bring light to the world. God is also calling His Church to share the Gospel message with the world, to share the light given to us through the saving power of Christ Jesus, with the world. It may seem dark and that we live in a merely irredeemable world, but God, who is infinitely just, wants his Church to bring light into the darkness. For into the darkness, God sent His Son to redeem us, while we were worthy of death, saved us from death, and brought us new life. Therefore, since God sought to redeem us from our sins, we must be willing to go out into the world and be His light in the darkness.