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Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

The Jews who lived at the time when Jesus was born were waiting for a savior. They had been oppressed and subject to foreign rule for over 400 years. The prophets who lived back in the day, back in the glory years, told of a time when the rebellious nation of Israel and the kingdom of Judah would fall to other rulers as punishment for their disobedience to God’s law. But they also told of a Savior who would come and rescue them one day.

So they waited and waited and endured the pagans who ruled over them, mistreated them, and taxed them heavily. But no true Savior appeared to deliver them. To save them. A few wannabe saviors rose up and led the people for short periods of time, but it always came to nothing. And while some of the Jews surely gave up on the idea of a Savior, others kept holding on to the dream; hoping and waiting.

One day an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. We all know the story. Joseph felt himself in need of a savior, because he was in a real pickle. His fiance, Mary, was pregnant, and the child inside her wasn’t from him.

“What to do? What to do?” Joseph must have been thinking and I imagine it took awhile until he fell into a fitful sleep that night.

The angle told him to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. He was told to give the baby boy the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means The Lord Saves.

Well, this isn’t exactly the kind of saving that Joseph was hoping for. As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the kind of saving that the Jews were looking for either. According to the angel, this “savior” would not liberate Israel from foreign oppression and restore it to its former glory, but would “save his people from their sins.”

What kind of savior is that? They already had forgiveness of sins through sacrifices of animals in the temple. Isn’t that enough?

Not really. While they had forgiveness of sins, they weren’t saved from their sins. A greater power was oppressing them than Caesar Augustus. An unrelenting tyrant called Sin had enslaved them; not since the days of the Babylonian Exile from Israel, but since the Exile from Eden.

Because of the Savior growing in Mary’s womb- the Savior that would be laid in a manger in Bethlehem- the Savior who would die on a cross- and the Savior that would rise from the dead and walk out of a tomb, all of God’s people would be saved from a fate worse than physical death – that would be spiritual death.

Paul writes in Ephesians 2:

As for you, you were dead in in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (verses 1 and 2)

Sounds pretty grave and hopeless, but then the Savior came!

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins – it is by grace you have been saved. (verse 4)

This Christmas let us rejoice in the Savior who has saved us from Sin and raises up with Christ in the heavenly realms!

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I recently read the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I’ve read it many times. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Every time I read it, something new stands out. This time I was struck by Paul’s use of the word Christ. He uses that title for Jesus over and over. 38 Times in this short, four chapter book. He uses the word Christ more than he uses the name Jesus.  When we study the Bible, one of the first questions we should ask ourselves is “What did these words mean to the person that wrote them?” So, what did Paul have in mind when he wrote the word Christ? What is his concept of Christ?

We have to remember that Paul was thoroughly Jewish. His concept of almost everything was informed and shaped by what we call the Old Testament or, more accurately, the First Testament. The word we read as Christ, comes from the Greek word Khristos, which comes from the Hebrew word khriein, which means to anoint, translating the Hebrew masiah or Messiah. Paul was totally steeped in the Hebrew language, and every time he wrote the word Christ, he was probably thinking of the Hebrew word khriein or masiah.

The picture of someone being anointed in the O.T. is someone having olive oil poured on their head. This was a sacred rite reserved for three types of people: prophets, priests and kings.

The prophet Elisha was anointed by Elijah (1Kings 19:16).

The first priest, Aaron, was anointed by Moses (Exodus 29:7).

King David was anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1,13)

Most of the O.T. Prophets spoke and wrote about an anointed One that was to come. One that would restore peace, prosperity and wholeness to his people, his Chosen Ones. This person was commonly referred as the Messiah.  This Messiah was sometimes referred to as a great prophet, or a priest, or king, like King David.

Most of the post exilic Jews longingly looked for, prayed for, and hoped for this Messiah. Paul was no exception. He fervently and zealously awaited the Messiah and did everything in his power to bring about the soon return of this exalted Prophet, Priest and King.

There was always the questions among the Jews, “When would the Messiah come? ” “What was taking him so long?” What was the cause of his delay? “

 The more zealous of the Jews, like Paul, thought they had the answer.  It was the Jews own fault. The Jews that didn’t take the law of God, or the Torah, seriously enough. They failed in so many areas of keeping the Law.  They were lax in their commitment to and obedience of the Law.  If only these slackers could be convinced or coerced to do better, that would surely hasten the Messiahs  appearance and rule and liberate the people from the despised Roman oppression.

And then there was The Way.  The Way was a group of Jews who proclaimed that the Messiah had come in the person of a man named Jesus. Not only was he the Messiah, but they claimed he was the Son of God.  Blasphemy! Obvious blasphemy!  This Jesus was shown to be a fraud and a heretic and hung up on a cross to die.  The Law said, “Cursed is any man hung on a tree!” This man Jesus was not the blessed Messiah, but a man cursed by God to die a humiliating death. Perhaps if there was one main reason the true Messiah would not come soon, it was due to the rabble called the Way, and Paul set out to do something about it!

He set out toward Damascus to persecute, jail, and maybe kill some of The Way, as those zealous for the Torah did to Stephen, one of the Way’s leader’s.  On the road to Damascus, a strong light and a voice from heaven caused Paul to fall to the ground. The voice called out to Paul, “Why are you persecuting me!”

 Paul said, “Who are you?”

 The voice from heaven basically said, “I am Jesus, the Messiah.”

 After that, Paul’s world was never the same.  It was turned upside down and inside out. Indeed, the Messiah had come. Paul had to admit it. And he was glad. The long foretold  and divinely sent Prophet, Priest and King had truly come.  That fact totally transformed and revolutionized Paul’s outlook and worldview.

Paul’s new mission in life would be to proclaim the Good News that the Messiah, the Christ, had really come to earth to set up a new kind of kingdom, one that gave sight to the blind and set the captives free! Paul could now see the truth and live in true freedom! He was now living in right relationship with God and was filled with joy and peace.  And it was all due to the Messiah, Christ Jesus!

We are in the Advent season. Advent is a time of hopeful expectation. Paul spent the first part of his life in hopeful expectation, waiting for the Messiah to come. He spent the rest of his life rejoicing that the Messiah had come. In this period of Advent, we too can rejoice with Paul and be glad that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, has come, and because of that we are a new creation, living in His love and loving others.

Advent is also a time to remember that we are living in the Already, but Not Yet. We already are experiencing the blessings of being Kingdom dwellers, but the Kingdom is still growing and not yet complete. We already have that peace that surpasses all understanding, but we do not yet have world peace. We already have a new life within, but we are not yet free from pain and suffering; we have not yet had every tear wiped away by the gentle hand of Jesus.

We are still waiting for the Messiah. We are waiting for his return. When he comes he will not come as a baby in a manger, but as King of kings and Lord of lords, coming with the blast of a trumpet on clouds of glory. This time he will not be humiliated and crucified, but will rule with justice and righteousness and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

Maranatha – Come quickly!

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The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

I recently listened to a podcast sermon by Timothy Keller on the Lord’s prayer, specifically the first two words, “Our Father”.  He was preaching about the incredible blessings we have because God is our Father. He talked about the inheritance we have because God is our Father. Normally the father must die before one receives the inheritance, but with God, we receive the inheritance when we die. And that inheritance is mind blowing. It is really difficult to understand how great it is.  Keller used two examples to try and explain it, as it relates to our earthly life and how it should shape and inform our view of heaven and our inheritance.

In one of his illustrations he asked his listeners to imagine that they had a trillion dollars in a Swiss bank account. Then he said to imagine that you are pick pocketed and lose 5 dollars. What would your response be? Would you fret and moan and feel despondent because you lost 5 dollars?  No. You probably wouldn’t give it a second thought because of your huge Swiss account.

Keller reads the Romans 8 verses and says that’s what we should think about anytime something bad happens to us. Even when tragedy strikes in some way.  We shouldn’t be too concerned about it, because of our eternal inheritance. It is not even worthy to be compared to the glorious bliss and eternal happiness and joy that awaits all Believers when they get to heaven.

In another example he mentioned the word molecule. I do not exactly remember what he said about “molecule” .  But it got me to thinking about how small a molecule is. Perhaps what Keller was getting at is that no matter how big our problems seem to be, in reality they are as small as a molecule compared to the glorious riches and peace and hilarious joy we will experience in heaven when we are in the direct presence of God.

I thought of another example on my own. While it’s not as good as Keller’s, it helped me sharpen my perspective on this matter. I thought of the sun. The sun is huge. The sun is incredibly hot. Sometimes the painful experiences we have to endure seem as big and as hot as the sun. We wonder how we can ever survive the terrible situation we are going through. We cry out to God, “Why?” We scream, ” Help me! ”  We trust he is with us, walking beside us in some cases, carrying us in others, as we go through burning turmoil.

Perhaps God is also asking us to have some perspective. Our sun is a star, one of trillions in the universe. Our sun seems huge to us, but it  is only average size compared to the multitude of stars that fill the sky. Likewise, the horrific situations that we may be enduring, are nothing that overwhelm our omnipotent Lord. They are a shock to us, but didn’t catch God by surprise. And he assures us with his Word, that they are not worthy to be compared with what we will experience in our eternal glory that awaits.

So far we have been contemplating how to think correctly about all the negative life experiences we go through, but I would like to look at the other side of the coin. I believe C.S. Lewis somewhere wrote to his readers that they should imagine a happy time. A supremely joyous experience that they could enjoy in their lifetime. He doesn’t say think about a time when you were really happy, but imagine the happiest event that you can possibly dream of.  Lewis says that that imagination, that that blissful dream, cannot compare to the reality of the joy, peace and wholeness that we will have We we receive our glorious inheritance in Christ Jesus.

Meditating on these scriptures has helped me look at my own life experiences and expectations. It helps me to soberly consider the highs and lows that I either rejoice in or endure, and realize that no matter what, none of it can come close to comparing to the happiness I will enjoy when I am in the eternal presence of my good, good Father.

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Who doesn’t want to be be peacefully happy? All the time. In every type of circumstance and situation. I think we all know at least one person who is always serene and smiling, no matter what they are going through. And we want to know, “What’s their secret?”

The Apostle Paul was that kind of guy. Always full of joy. Always rejoicing. He wrote the book of Philippians. In this book he tells his readers to rejoice always. He tells them this because he knows it’s possible. He is living proof. He writes this letter that is so full of joy and hope, from a prison, while in chains (1:14), and he is rejoicing. (1:18)

So Paul, what is your secret? What is the secret to living a life of peaceful happiness.

Paul writes in chapter four, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

The definition of “content” is “the state of peaceful happiness”. And there is a secret to attaining that state of mind – that state of being. It is not something that just happens to a person one day. It is something we need to learn. Something Paul needed to learn.

Paul wasn’t always peacefully happy. At one time in his life he was a religious zealot, full of anger and condemnation at all those around him who were not living up to the high standards of the Torah, the law. It was bad enough all those Jews who were lax in their obedience to God’s Holy Word, but then come the Followers of the Way, who were proclaiming the Messiah had come, and his name is Jesus.

Paul set out to destroy them and their belief in this false Messiah. Paul writes to the Philippian Christians that he had learned to be content; he had learned to be peacefully happy, and that education began on the road to Damascus, where he had a life changing encounter with Jesus, the Messiah.

The first key to unlocking the secret of a life of peaceful happiness is having a life changing encounter with Jesus. It’s usually not as dramatic as a bright, shining light and an audible voice from heaven, as Paul experienced, but it is a deep and meaningful revelation of the truth that God loves you and wants you to be happy. It’s an understanding that Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself by coming to earth as a human baby, served humanity, died on a cross to forgive our sins, and rose to life so that we could live in right relationship with God and with our fellow human beings.

The second key to living in a state of peaceful happiness is found in Philippians chapter 2. Paul says that we should be like Jesus in his humility, in his servant attitude. He says we should do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but, in humility, should value others above ourselves. (2:3-8)

That can be mighty difficult in the competitive world that we live in. We are taught from a young age to win, to be the best, to get ahead. Our pride tells us to look down on others, climb over others, bury others. Indulging in all that” getting ahead” stuff usually leads to sad, angry lives, rather than happy, peaceful lives. Jesus says that we should “love one another as we love ourselves.” That includes valuing others above ourselves. Doing that is freeing, invigorating and enlightening.

The third key that opens the door to a lifestyle of peaceful happiness is thinking. Think, think, think. Paul admonishes the Philippians, and all believers, in chapter four to Think about whatever is true. Think about whatever is noble. Think about whatever is right. Think about whatever is pure. Think about what is lovely. Think about whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. When we think about these things, the God of peace and the peace of God will be with us (4:7-9)

This is an important key. If we primarily think good, happy, peaceful thoughts, we will live good, happy peaceful lives.

This is also a difficult key, because in our world we are conciously and unconciously thinking negative thoughts, or unproductive thoughts. We think alot about family, our job, our financial situation. Sometimes we think about politics and the news. With social media we think more and more about what other people think about us. We are bombarded by advertisements that try to get us to think that we will really be happy if we buy what they are selling.

Paul tells us that thinking good thoughts is the secret to peaceful happiness. That can be hard work, and not necessarily fun or exciting. It’s a learning process. Paul says twice that he had to learn it.

If someone wants to be a doctor, they have to spend a lot of time learning medicine. If someone wants to be a lawyer, they need years of studying law. To be a great chef, you go to a culinary academy and recieve instruction in cooking and baking. It takes a lot of time to be good at anything. Same with living a life of peaceful happiness. We need time, alone time in silence, normally, to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

So, as I read Paul and his letter to the Philippians, I see three main keys to enjoying a lasting state of peaceful happiness:

  1. Encountering Jesus and establishing an intimate relationship with him and our heavenly Father.
  2. Having a humble attitude like Christ had when he came to earth and lived and died among us. In humility, valuing others above ourselves. As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” Think about God and others more.
  3. Take time to think about the good things of God, His Word, His creation and His love. Those things that are right, true, pure, noble and excellent.

When we consider the situations, circumstances, and difficulties of our lives, we can ask ourselves, “Am I truly peacefully happy, deep down inside?” If the answer is no, then perhaps we should look at the three keys above and make some changes in our lives, knowing that God will help us because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

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My Mom died Thursday, October 17, 2019. Just a couple weeks ago. My family and I flew out to Colorado from Mexico for the funeral service. Below is a tribute I wrote in memory of Mom for the service.

Mom, Wonderful Mom

My Mom was a lot of wonderful things.

She was a rescuer.

One of the earliest memories I have is when I was about four or five years old and I was climbing a tree in our backyard, back when we lived in Denver. I fell out of the tree, but didn’t fall all the way to the ground because my foot got in a crook of the tree and I ended up hanging helplessly upside down. I yelled, “Mom, help me!” She came right away and rescued me from my unfortunate predicament.

Another time, when I was about the same age, I went downstairs to our freezer for something. It was full of frost, which to a five year old kid looked a lot like a giant Popsicle, so I licked it. Much to my surprise, my tongue stuck to it. It’s kinda hard to yell, “Mom, help me!” when your tongue is frozen to a hunk of frost. Whatever noise I managed to make, mom heard it and came to my rescue. That’s the thing about wonderful moms – they have a habit of coming to the rescue of their kids.

Mom was also a gardener. She always loved growing flowers and vegetables. We came out to visit in July of 2016, and I remember Mom out every morning watering and weeding her little flower garden in front of the house, or tending to her vegetable garden off to the side. Sometimes the jack rabbits would come into her garden and eat her plants, which drove her crazy. She kept telling Dad to get his gun and kill them, and she declared that if he didn’t, she would. I have to chuckle a little, thinking of Mom out with the .22 taking pot shots at rabbits. In one of the last emails I received from Mom, she attached some photos of the flowers she enjoyed so much. I love gardening at least as much as Mom did, and I am growing some zinnias and sunflowers at the Home for Needy Children in Mexico where I serve. I took a few pictures of my flowers and meant to send them to Mom, but got too busy and never sent them. A word of advice – never get so busy that you don’t send flower pictures to your Mom.

Mom was a Bronco fan. Every Sunday after church and after eating a delicious meal, we would gather around the TV to root, root, root for the Broncos. More often than not the Broncos would disappoint us with a losing effort. They weren’t so good back in those days. Nevertheless, we would tune in the following Sunday hoping for a big win. The last email I received from Mom, she told me that she was able to go to sleep happy, because the Bronco’s FINALLY won a game. I can’t help but think that it was one of God’s small graces that Mom died Thursday morning and didn’t have to endure that terribly poor performance by the Bronco’s that night.

Most importantly, Mom was a woman of God. I don’t know what day I was born on, but I bet if I was born on a Saturday, she would have had me at church the next day. She had that kind of commitment to the things of God. Growing up we were in church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Every morning when Mel and I were growing up, Mom would read a devotional to us while we ate our Cheerios and Captain Crunch. Every night when we were young she would read us a Bible story from a childrens Bible Story book she bought. Sometimes she would let us choose a story. I always chose the Samson story. I loved that story.

We all came to faith in Jesus Christ because of Mom. Because of her diligence, perseverance, and faithful prayers for us, Dad, Mel and me are serving the Lord. There’s nothing more powerful than the prayers of a devoted mother for her family. My past – growing up in the Faith, and my present – serving God at a Home For Needy Children in Mexico, and my future – one day being in the immediate presence of God in glory, and being reunited with Mom, are all because of my wonderful Mom.

Some people take their Mother’s kindness, goodness and love for granted. That’s not good. Many of the children at the Home for Needy Children are there because their mother’s have abandoned, neglected or abused them. I thank God everyday for my Mom, I think of Jesus who loved us and gave himself for us. It reminds me of my Mom who loved me and gave herself for me, and for her family and many others along the way.

One of my favorite Christian songs has a line that says, “I am blessed beyond all measure.” Thanks to Mom, I can look back on my life and I can say with confidence that I, too, am blessed beyond all measure.

Thanks Mom.

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“Mejor de lo que merezco.” That was the answer Enrique gave me when I asked him, “How are you?”

“Better than I deserve.”

Enrique was the leader of prison ministry here at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, where we minister to a lot more than needy children. He was in his late sixties and in good health. In his seventies his health began to deteriorate and he started to have a lot of physical problems. They got so bad that he had to dramatically cut back his visits to the prison.

My wife and I went to visit him a few weeks ago. Now, in his early eighties, he talked about blood in his urine, prostrate cancer, recent surgeries and showed us a swollen leg. Yet, when we arrived and I asked him “Como esta?” (How are you?), he gave me the same answer he always gives anyone who asks him that question, “Mejor de lo que merezco.” (Better than I deserve.)

I love that answer and use it myself on occasion. It is a very biblical answer. No matter how good or bad we feel, behave, or think, we are always treated by God way better than we deserve.

We deserve punishment. We deserve condemnation. We deserve eternal fire and the worm that does not die. We deserve a crown of thorns on our head and nails piercing our hands.

At least that’s what the Word of God says. God commands us to “be holy as I am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) God commands us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourself. (Matthew 22:37-39).

We dreadfully fail to obey these commands and thus deserve to suffer the wrath of God. Paul, in Romans three pours gas on the fire by exclaiming:

There is no one righteous, not even one.

There is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away, they have together become worthless.

There is no one who does good.

There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Most people look at themselves and think that they are pretty good. They compare themselves with others and declare, “I’m not that bad!” I do a lot of good things to help people so I deserve a reward from God and man.

But when we compare ourselves with the Judge, God Almighty, we fall dismally short of what he wants from us and deserve to be punished.

Lamentations 3:22-23 happily tells us that “Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Mercy means not getting what we deserve. Mercy means not being punished. Mercy means not suffering the wrath of God. Mercy means not being condemned. Mercy means not being consumed. Jeremiah comforts God’s people by letting them know that God’s mercies are new every morning, which is great news because we sin and disappoint God every morning, every minute, every moment, and we desperately need his mercy!

So, “How are you?” I bet you are better than you deserve. I certainly am.

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I recently wrote about worship after reading a couple of articles concerning this topic in Christianity Today. I continue to think about this subject as I believe that worship should be at the center of every Christians life. I have read three accounts in Scripture that have informed my worship and hope that they will do the same for you.

The first example is in the last book of the Bible – Revelation 19:4,5.
Here we see the heavenly beings bowing down and praising God. Here are two things Christians should do in their life of worship.  The first is bowing down. When a person bows before another, he or she is showing respect, acknowledging supremacy, exhibiting humility and submission. We should worship God, not only with our minds and spirits, but also with our bodies. Physically bowing down before the Sovereign Lord helps to transform our hearts and minds to Christ and his will. Sadly, most Christians rarely if ever now down in worship before almighty God. That described me as well, until I began studying the Bible and what it says about worship. Now I regularly bow down when I pray.

The heavenly beings  not only bowed down, but they also praised God.  Many people think worship and praise are the same. They are closely linked, but are not the same. Praise for God is the result that flows from a life of worship; a life of submission to God lived in genuine trust that He loves us and wants us to be happy. Our hearts are full of joy living in right relationship with God and man, and our lips can’t help but praise the Lord!

The second example is found in the first book of the Bible – Genesis 24:26,27.
 Here, Abraham’s servant has had his petition to the Lord answered favorably. He was on a mission to find a wife for Isaac, and he found one. Interesting enough, his reaction is exactly the same as the heavenly beings: he bows down and praises the Lord. He is not in the immediate presence of God, yet he has humbled himself before the Almighty, has trusted that the God of Abraham loves even Abraham’s servant and will be good to him and thus his prayer is answered. God showed up for him in his time of need and he bows down and praises God.

My last example of worship is the first time that the word worship is used in the Bible – Genesis 22

It is in a story that is important to all three major religions in the world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. We can all learn a great deal about what It means to truly means to worship God from this story.

Abraham is told by God to take his son, his only son, the son that he loves, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice to the Lord. This is the son of promise that Abraham waited 25 years to be born to him and Sarah. Finally Isaac was born and the elderly couple laughed like crazy to see the incredible gift God gave them in their old age.  Surely they doted on him, and spoiled him and loved him a lot. Maybe too much, which is why God asked this unimaginable thing from Abraham.

Abraham gets up early the next morning and heads off with Isaac (who was in his late teens or early twenties) and two servants. He is heading out to a place that God would show him. It took them three days to finally get to the mountain on which he was to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. One can only imagine what was going on in Abraham’s head as they took the long journey.

Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”(Genesis 22:5)

WE WILL WORSHIP. That’s what Abraham said. That’s what Abraham had on his mind. Not music. Not a joyful celebration. But obedience to a God who had shown Himself faithful time after time in Abraham’s life. Worship, for Abraham was trusting in a good God, who always kept his promises, even when, by all outward appearances, it seemed that God was not going to show up. God always showed up. Now Abraham was climbing a mountain, carrying fire, and beside him, Isaac, carrying the wood that was intended to burn him up as a sacrifice. Abraham was planning on worshiping God. He was planning on God showing up, somehow, some way, even if it meant bringing Isaac back to life, as the author of the book of Hebrews writes. Worshiping God is living a life of faith, pleasing God because we believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Sometimes that is not easy, as I am sure Abraham was thinking as he put the wood on the rock, and then placed Isaac on the wood and bound him. Just as he was about to plunge a knife into Isaac’s heart, God showed up. The LORD spoke to Abraham, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)

I think this story shows us the heart of true worship. Obeying God. Trusting God. Believing that God loves us and wants us to be happy, even in the midst of great trials and testing; in external difficulties and internal anguish, we can worship God with all our being, knowing that God will show up. Just like he showed up for Abraham’s servant who found a wife for Isaac. Just like he showed up for Abraham on the mountain. And one day, all those who worship God in spirit and in truth, will join the heavenly beings and bow down and praise God, forever and ever, amen.

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I read about the possibility of global destruction the other day. What I was reading said the earth will be laid waste. It mentioned the world withering and languishing. It’s like there is a curse that is consuming the earth and it’s inhabitants are burning up.

Was I reading the Washington Post’s recent articles about record braking temperatures in Europe and the New England states? No. Perhaps it was a story in Scientific American about global warming. No. It must have been CNN’s special on the melting glaciers of Greenland. Wrong again. I was reading the book of Isaiah, chapter 24.

Isaiah writes, “The LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it.” (vs1)

“The earth will be completely laid waste and plundered.” (vs 3)

“The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers.” (vs 4)

“A curse consumes the earth. The earths inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” (vs 6)

Wow. Sounds pretty severe! What would cause God to do such a thing? Verse 5 gives us the answer, “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.”

Many people claim that climate change and ultimate global destruction is caused by man. It might be. But maybe it’s not because of greenhouse gases, auto emissions and coal burning factories. God may be using climate change to punish mankind because they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. By God’s standard, global warming is the least of our problems. Humans greatest problem is disobedience, violating God’s statutes and braking the everlasting covenant.

It’s clear from Isaiah 24 and many other scripture references that these things make God angry and he plans to “lay waste the earth and devastate it.”

Is there any hope for mankind and the planet? Maybe. Maybe not.

That question makes me think of three stories from the Old Testament that may give us some insight into what future planet earth and its inhabitants can expect.

God, Noah and the Worlds Population

Genesis 6 says that “the LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time…So the LORD said ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created.” (vs 5,7)

God told righteous Noah to build an ark which he did, and he and his family and the animals on board were spared the global destruction by flood waters. No hope for the rest of mankind at that time. Why? They were wicked. They were disobedient, ignored the statutes and broke the everlasting covenant.

God, Moses and the Israelites

In chapter 32 of Exodus, God is angry with the Israelites for making a golden calf and worshiping it. God tells Moses in verses 9 and 10, “I have seen these people and they are a stiff necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” Moses had a little talk with God and talked him out of destroying all of the Israelites. In the end, there was still a large group dedicated to the LORD, and they took their swords and killed about three thousand people who were disobedient, ignored God’s statutes and broke the everlasting covenant. Verse 14 tells us, “the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” Maybe there is hope for us.

God, Jonah and the Ninevites

In the book of Jonah we read that the word of the LORD came to Jonah saying, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (1:1,2) After a brief detour, Jonah gets to Nineveh and begins preaching, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (3:4) No, ifs, ands or buts. Nineveh will be overthrown!

But, guess what? The King of Ninevah heard Jonah’s proclamation and ordered the people to “call urgently on God. Give up your evil ways and your violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (3:8,9)

Verse 10 of chapter 4 gives us the good news that “when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”

Hope for Us?

So maybe there is hope for the world and humankind. All humanity has to do is to repent, which means drastically change the way they think about God and themselves, and change their behavior. If we all earnestly obey God’s laws, follow his statutes, and keep the everlasting covenant, God may relent, “and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

It’s just that easy. Hmmm. I see more withering, languishing and global destruction in our future.

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At the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I live and serve, we have church services every Wednesday and Sunday.  We frequently sing a song in Spanish that says, “No hay lugar mas alto, mas grande, que estar en los pies de Cristo.”  Translated to say, “There is no place higher or greater than at the feet of Jesus.”

 Every time we sing that song I think of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  She always seems to be at the feet of Jesus.  The first time we meet her she is at the Masters feet listening to him teach.  The second time we encounter her she is prostrate at his feet telling him that if he had been there, her brother Lazarus would not have died. Shortly after that she is on bended knee before the Lord,  pouring expensive perfume on his feet.

I think that these three instances of Mary at the feet of Jesus can teach us something important about our relationship with Jesus.

First, we need to spend time at Jesus feet listening and learning from him.  I love the whole Bible, but when I read the words of Jesus, it’s something special.  It’s no mere human being talking, but it’s the Christ, the Son of the living God, who is talking.  Jesus, fully God and fully man, who came down from the realms of Glory to be among us and teach all humanity the Truth.  When Jesus speaks, I listen! 

To sit at Jesus feet and listen, spiritually and symbolically means that I humble myself.  I realize that I don’t have all the answers and HE does.  I do not stand before him, and look him in the eye as an equal, but I place myself at his feet, acknowledging that I, like Mary, am simply searching for the truth about God, about the world, about my life and living in right relationship with God and others.

Second, we spend time at the feet of Jesus when we are despairing, depressed, confused, frustrated; at wits end and at the end of our rope. That’s the condition Mary was in the second time we find her at the feet of Jesus. Her brother, Lazarus, was dead.

She had sent word to Jesus four days before, telling Jesus to come quickly because Lazarus was deathly sick. Jesus waited two days before leaving for Bethany. By this time Mary’s brother was dead. Mary falls at Jesus feet (when he finally arrives) and certainly, with confusion and heartache in her voice she exclaims (accuses?), “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)

We, like Mary, can safely fall at Jesus feet when we are disappointed in him, when we are confused about his will, his plan, his purpose for our lives. When we feel he has let us down. When we thought we had the God Thing all figured out, and then life throws us for a loop. Those are times that Jesus welcomes us to bow humbly at his feet so that he can lift us up and make everything better. Like he did for Mary by raising Lazarus from the dead. He may not raise our loved ones from the dead, but he will resurrect our hopes and faith and love.

Third, we go to Jesus feet when we we are full of joy and to happily, extravagantly, worship him. The next time we see Mary at the feet of Jesus, she is adoring Jesus and giving him her best. In the chapter after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, we encounter a joyous Mary, with awe in her eyes at the Lord, and a jar of expensive perfume in her hands. John 12:3 says that “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair.”

It’s natural and fitting that we too should worship at Jesus feet, pouring out to him our best gifts, our time and talents and treasures. We do this because all that we have he has given to us. Every pleasure, good feeling and wonderful event we experience in life is from our good, good God; our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. Because of him we have the best; forgiveness, salvation, redemption, and freedom. Why wouldn’t we pour out the best of our lives in glorious worship at the feet of Jesus?

There is place in most of our hearts that wants to experience the best, go to the highest place and attain the greatest of what life has to offer. Let us learn from Mary, that the best place we can be in life, the highest place we can ascend to, the greatest joy we can acquire, is found at the feet of Jesus.

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