Sunday, December 15, 2019

Third Sunday of Advent - Evening Scripture Reading


Luke 1:46-55 New Living Translation (NLT)

The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise

46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47     How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
    and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
    and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
    to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
    He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
    and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and his children forever.”

Daily Word of God - Mark 1:40-45

Mark 1:40-45 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy

40 A man with leprosy[a] came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Jesus was indignant.[b] He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Footnotes:

  1. Mark 1:40 The Greek word traditionally translated leprosy was used for various diseases affecting the skin.
  2. Mark 1:41 Many manuscripts Jesus was filled with compassion

Sunday Praise and Worship Message - Jubilation

I have had many opportunities over the past couple of months to reflect upon what my family and I have had to deal with. I have often thought about the conversations with the doctors, specialists and a whole host of others who worked to save my life. There were so many times when fear seemed to be the only emotion that I felt during the long periods of treatment and hospital stays. That fear came from the unknown.

In the early days of my illness, there were many unanswered questions and too many unknowns to count. Each doctor and specialist literally prayed for guidance and hoped that the medications and treatments that they prescribed would save my life. As I spent more and more time with each of the members of the team that was assembled to save my life, I began to learn more and more about them. I learned that there were things about my case and condition that caused them to be fearful and to worry. I could see and feel their doubts as we talked about the next small step in my treatment and ultimately in my road to full recovery. 

Some of the doctors weren’t sure if I would make it through the ordeal. The infections that were destroying my bones and burrowing further and further inside of me seemed, at times, to be gaining the upper hand. There were many doubts and my odds of surviving fluctuated like the stock market on a bad day. If I were in Las Vegas, the oddsmakers wouldn’t be giving me even odds at all. Many would say that if they bet on the likelihood of me surviving, it would be a sucker bet. In short, betting on me to live was a waste of money.

Over time and with the good Lord’s strength and hand, things started to change and the odds of me surviving improved. The doctors and I began to believe that I would make it through this illness and that no more surgeries and medications would be necessary. I had finally begun to feel joy rather than fear.

When I left my hospital room and said my good-byes to the staff and Slim, my IV pole that I had been tied to for so long, things had improved, but I was cautioned. They could easily go the other way. I still wasn’t out of the woods. There were days and some weeks that were filled with more fear, uncertainty and doubt. I began to wonder whether or not my joy would continue.

As I continued to reflect and think about those days, I began to see how fear can give way to joy. It is like going through a long, dark tunnel. You don’t know what is inside or lurking in the shadows. You just know one thing. You don’t want to be there. You continue to grope in the dark trying to find your way through it all. Sometimes you stumble. While other times, you manage to find the hidden obstacle and just barely avoid it. But, you take those steps by faith.

It is only through faith that we can experience joy in our lives. The children had faith that God would provide a Messiah to save them. They waited and waited and waited still longer. In God’s perfect timing, He gave the world His son, Jesus, to save all of us from the punishment for our sins and iniquities. 

In the second chapter of Luke’s gospel, Luke writes, “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!” he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’”

When we face fear, uncertainty or doubt in our lives, it is only natural for us to be afraid. We don’t like things that surprise us or present us with unknowns. In fact, the last thing we want in our lives is to be scared or to live in fear. We like things in nice, neat categories and undisturbed. We prefer to go about our way without question or doubt. But, our lives are far, far from that. We are surrounded by things that could go from good to bad within literally seconds. 

When we face those moments, we have nothing to rely on except our faith in God and in His Son, Christ Jesus. No matter what happens in our lives, the only assurance is that God is there and that He is with us every moment of every day and watches over us. So, when the angel appeared to the shepherds, it was something unexpected and unknown. The natural reaction was fear. The angel, knowing that, immediately said to them, “Don’t be afraid.”

I am sure that the shepherds’ fears began to ratchet down a bit. But, what really caused their blood pressure to return to normal was the angel’s next statement. He said to them that he brought “good news that will bring great joy to all the people.”

Their faith in the prophecy and their faith in God allowed them to feel joy rather than the daily dread that they probably felt from time to time. They were just like us. They had fears, uncertainties and doubts in their lives. They walked through similar long, dark tunnels hoping to find the light and the end of their ordeals.

We just need to keep in mind that sometimes we have to walk through that long, dark tunnel in order to better appreciate the light and to realize that hope is always there. It just takes a little time and a lot of faith to see it through to the end. 

As you go through the toils and burdens of your daily life, remember the words of the angel. You have nothing to fear and so much to gain if you just remain faithful and know the Word and promises of the Lord. When Joshua was given the awesome responsibility of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, God, in the first chapter of Joshua, said to him, “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.

So, always be strong and courageous. Always trust and have faith in the Lord. He will see you through the longest, darkest of tunnels. You have nothing to fear. Remain joyful in the face of adversity. Be filled with light even during the darkest of times.

When you do all these things, you will definitely experience a peace that surpasses all understanding and be able to stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Daily Word of God - Zechariah 6:9-13

Zechariah 6:9-13 New International Version (NIV)

A Crown for Joshua

The word of the Lord came to me: 10 “Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. 11 Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jozadak.[a] 12 Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he[b] will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’

Footnotes:

  1. Zechariah 6:11 Hebrew Jehozadak, a variant of Jozadak
  2. Zechariah 6:13 Or there

Third Sunday of Advent - Morning Scripture Reading


Isaiah 35 New Living Translation (NLT)

Hope for Restoration

 Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.”
And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
    and unplug the ears of the deaf.
The lame will leap like a deer,
    and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,
    and streams will water the wasteland.
The parched ground will become a pool,
    and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.
Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish
    where desert jackals once lived.
And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
    It will be named the Highway of Holiness.
Evil-minded people will never travel on it.
    It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways;
    fools will never walk there.
Lions will not lurk along its course,
    nor any other ferocious beasts.
There will be no other dangers.
    Only the redeemed will walk on it.
10 Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
    They will enter Jerusalem[a] singing,
    crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
    and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Footnotes:

  1. 35:10 Hebrew Zion.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 52:7-10

Isaiah 52:7-10 New International Version (NIV)

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
    together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
    they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
    you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
    in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
    the salvation of our God.

Daily Word of God - Psalm 89:1-2

Psalm 89:1-2 New International Version (NIV)

Psalm 89[a]

maskil[b] of Ethan the Ezrahite.

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
    through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 89:1 In Hebrew texts 89:1-52 is numbered 89:2-53.
  2. Psalm 89:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term

Friday, December 13, 2019

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 40:26-31

Isaiah 40:26-31 New International Version (NIV)

26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.