December 13, 2020 — God Sets the Stage

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. 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. — Luke 2:1-4

We ended last week with a swirl of prophecies all fulfilled so that God’s Word, His purpose and His plan would be accomplished. As God prepares us for the journey ahead, He must often “Set the Stage,” or prepare things in advance. We use this idiomatic expression to give us a visual picture of what takes place before any theatrical performance.

Before any patrons sit in the audience, a crew of people work feverishly behind the curtain painting backdrops, setting up furniture, constructing platforms…they are making certain that every detail and prop is where it should be. So that, when the actors hit their mark on stage to deliver their lines or perform their actions in telling the story, everything goes off without a glitch! Every great stage performance is prepared in advance by countless hours of rehearsal and attention to detail.

In the same way, God leaves nothing to chance. How would Mary and Joseph be assured to have their child come from Nazareth? God moves in the heart of the ruler of the most powerful empire in the world to take a census. A seemingly unimportant detail, but to the God of the universe — every detail matters. Sometimes the crazy turns, the painful twists, the joyful roads we are led down don’t make much sense to us. But God is exceedingly efficient in using all the apparently inconsequential details of our lives to “Set the Stage” for the most amazing story that our lives will tell of His glory.

Today, is there a path you are on (or have been on) that doesn’t seem to make sense? Could it be that the God of the universe, who moved the most powerful man in the world to do His bidding, is simply setting the stage for greater purposes than you understand right now?

Perhaps on this day you can take a moment to thank God, even for the details you don’t quite understand…and trust His ways.

November 30, 2020 — When All Hope Seems Lost

 
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; — Isaiah 11:1-3
 
The Book of Isaiah is a book of history and of prophecy. Written by the Prophet Isaiah roughly 700 years before the birth of Jesus (740 to 700 BCE), the book contains powerful promises concerning the future. What makes this Scripture so fascinating is that when Isaiah wrote, 10 generations had passed since David, the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), had ruled in a united Israel. The proceeding kings after David struggled to maintain their devotion to the one true God of Israel, and thus the kingdom (and the lineage) had become a shadow of its former glory.
 
The promise from Isaiah 11:1-3 is rooted in this place. Despair, brokenness, hopelessness, and a very real sense that the promises God had made David may never come to pass. God had promised David a descendant who would rule on his throne forever. The centuries that passed between the life of David and the birth of Christ left that promise hanging almost seeming impossible given the condition of the situation.
 
As our hearts turn to the incarnation of God and we begin to think of that first Christmas morning, we would do well never to underestimate God or His promises. Nothing is impossible for God, even when everything within us screams “He can’t”, God will make a way. Though the family line of David had been “cut down” and all that was left was a “stump”, from it the promises of God would burst forth. Jesus would rise from the lineage of David and in Him every promise of God is yes and amen.
 
This shoot that rose from the seemingly dead, lifeless stump of Jesse wouldn’t simply be a new king. Jesus is new life and in Him we see God’s perfect love for humanity. This Shoot has and is bearing fruit across the planet. Life after life that comes to know Jesus comes into the promised family of Abraham. Each follower of Jesus come to know the wisdom and understanding He possesses are the very life and wisdom of God.
Today as you reflect on this Scripture, there are a few thoughts I would challenge us to remember during this season of Advent:
 
-God always keeps His promises
-God is faithful and can be trusted
-Even when it seems like there is no way, God creates a way
-Whatever season of life we are walking in, Jesus is there to guide us
-Jesus IS the Way
 
Father, we confess sometimes we struggle with the same hopeless despair that generations before us have. Sometimes Lord we don’t see the way. The pain and suffering blind us as we struggle to hold onto your faithful promises. Lord, remind us that even when all seems hopeless and impossible, that You are the God of impossible. Turn our hearts and minds fully to you and let us remember that you do great things with absolutely nothing. As Jesus burst forth out of the dead stump of Jesse, we know you can create life from nothing. Help us trust the One who spoke all creation into existence, thank you for Your Son Jesus, in His name we pray, amen.

Day 4 – Jesus Will Show Us Even Greater Things

Day 4 – Jesus Will Show Us Even Greater Things. March 9, 2019

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
John 1:45-51

On the heels of their encounter with Jesus, Philip immediately invites Nathanael to “Come and see” the “one Moses wrote about,” the Messiah — Jesus of Nazareth. When we have seen Jesus and spent time with Him, it is only natural to invite others to experience what we have. All too often the response may be similar to Nathanael’s sarcastic retort, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Jesus mercifully shows Himself to be worthy of following by showing just a little glimpse of His power…“I saw you under the fig tree…” Nathanael is suddenly impressed with Jesus’ ability and recognizes Him as the “Son of God.” Without missing a beat and in almost casual fashion, Jesus basically says: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! “You will see greater things than that.” The true follower of Jesus will never be left with a lack of amazement…there are always greater things to see from our Lord.

Lord Jesus, thank You for bearing with my need to see Your amazing acts of power in order to truly trust You and believe in You. Help me to trust You even when I don’t see the miracles I hope for. But, also Lord, please be true to Your Word and show me greater things than I can ever imagine in You. My I always be amazed in Your presence and by Your grace. Amen.