Saturday, December 24, 2016

At the Bottom of the Ladder

                       "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, 
                         keeping watch over their flocks at night."  (Luke 2:9)

It's Christmas Eve, yet the shepherds there in the Bethlehem field have no clue.  How could they have any clue that in just a few moments everything in their lives is about to change?

Dirty, stinky, rough men - they barely hang onto the lowest rung of the societal ladder. They are just camped out there, doing what they do, night after night, working a job that serves the people.  It's a filthy, lonely, and even dangerous job, but somebody's gotta do it.

They're responsible to tend, feed, and watch for the safety of the sheep, especially those little lambs.  Predators slink nearby, attracted to the possibility of an easy kill and a tender lamb snack.

Many of those unblemished lambs coming from this filthy field will be used as sacrifices just a few miles down the road on Jerusalem's altar. It's a fancy place there where only the spotless lambs will be taken and sold to the more affluent.

These men are considered to be ceremonially unclean, unfit for worship.  Yet what they do enables those on the upper rungs of the societal ladder to go and worship, to make a sacrifice in the temple and to receive forgiveness for their sins.  The perfect little lambs these lonely shepherds raise make that possible for all those people in the city who seem to be live higher up the ladder.

It is the way it is.  It has always been this way.  Nobody expects it to change, either.  These men are outcasts and cannot go up that ladder to worship even if they want to.

In an exceedingly bright moment, the sky there at the top of the ladder opens and an angel tells them that just over there, in that barn right next to them, the SAVIOR of the world has come.

The King at the top has come down to earth as a Babe at the bottom.

To them.

For them.

Yes, them - the lowest of the low.

For all people - the revered, the self-important, the lost.

For everyone, regardless of where they live on the ladder of life.

Suddenly there are many angels, angels having a celebration in the sky!  Angels loving God, praising that Baby next door who has come to earth to save ALL the people from their sins.

Don't miss this, friends.

God came down the ladder, first to the shepherds, the lowest of the low.  He came bringing the greatest news to them first.  Why?  Because he knew they couldn't make it to church, and so He brought it to them.

He came to them.

He cared about them that much.

He loved them that much to come down and come to them.

And He loves you that much.  He comes down to wherever you are.

What does this tell you about the good news of the gospel?

Jesus comes and offers his grace and his salvation to you.

It matters not if you are high and mighty.  He cares not if you are in the lowliest place, either.  He will find you, wherever you are and offer you his loving arms.

He knows where you are.

Open your heart and meet Him, embrace Him, follow Him.

He loves hanging out there with you on the bottom rung.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"I Have You, Jesus"

Here we are
Just four days from Christmas
I have everything
I could need or want
For I have you, Jesus

Outside my home, chaos looms
Shoppers, decorators, salespeople
People driving too fast, intent on their preparations
Not me, though
I have you, Jesus

My heart is full
My mind is at peace
I'm satisfied
I feel no need
For I have you, Jesus

Bells are ringing outside Wal-Mart
Children are singing in holiday concerts
The market is bustling
Grocery stores are re-stocking
I'm good.  I have you, Jesus

Gifts are piled
Trees are decorated
Stockings are hanging
Manger scenes are arranged
And I have you, Jesus

The company will come
The presents will be given
Children will toss the wrappings
Not knowing that you are the Gift
So thankful, for I have you, Jesus

All the chaos settles
The holiday ends
Folks go home
The parties fade
But you are here always, and I have you, Jesus

You are everything, Lord
The beginning and the end
The Gift now and forever
My peace and my joy
So thankful I am, for I have you, Jesus.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Marathon Without a Finish Line?

Just a few days ago, we watched enthralled as runners from all over the world competed in the 26.2 mile 2016 Boston Marathon.

Ironically, over dinner that same evening, our twin granddaughters were telling us they had just run the mile that afternoon at school, as part of the President's Physical Fitness testing program.  Actually, they said, it was more like a walk/run.  One of the twins snarkily gloated as she recalled the details of digging deep and mustering a final sprint to the finish line, capably passing and beating one of the boys in her class.  I think she said it was her boyfriend, but I'm sure her audacious last second display of athleticism didn't help that cause along any.

I have the highest respect for these people who make it their goal to run, complete, and even win an event of the caliber of the Boston Marathon.  Just the thought of the training required and the stamina and perseverance to do so gives me blisters on my toes.

In case you didn't catch any of the marathon trivia, here are a few morsels to chew on:

   - 26,639 runners completed
     the marathon.

   - The male and female winners were both Ethiopians.

   - The final person to cross the finish line was a 72-year-old woman.

   - The youngest to cross the finish line was a 2-year-old boy, carried by his father.
     (The boy needs a heart transplant.)

   - There were numerous marriage proposals happening behind the scenes.

   - Several survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing finished the race.

   - One man, a victim of a boating accident that took his left leg and right arm,
     completed the race for the first time, saying the bombing victims had inspired him.

What compels these athletes to run these miles, to complete this grueling expenditure?  I've been an athlete throughout my life too, so to a small extent I do understand the drive and sacrifice.

It makes me wonder about people in general.  I sense a lot of people in our world are running "marathons" of their own.  Runners who are on an invisible treadmill of sorts.  Running a race with no end.

Oh they're running fast and hard, striving so diligently to acquire all the things, or achieve all the financial levels, or attain to the ranks of success they think will satisfy them.  They think they will be happier and more fulfilled when they get more stuff, make more money, or find a new relationship.  They live every moment to fill themselves with what they think will satisfy.

It's just like a marathon without a finish line.  Exhausting, empty, unfulfilling, and endless.

I think in some ways we can all relate - we've all run this race at times in our lives and felt the emptiness and futility of it all.  Our human natures are never satisfied.  We will never have enough.  In fact, King Solomon, the wisest AND wealthiest man who ever lived said this:  "The eyes of man are never satisfied."  (Proverbs 27:20)

Thankfully, though, we can overcome this lifestyle of seeking but never finding.  It is simple, yet only some will stop their striving long enough to see the answer.  Jesus is the treasure we are seeking.  He is our source of peace, comfort, hope, security, and salvation.  Only he can provide the flow of "living water" that will never run dry.

For ultimately, nothing in this world will ever satisfy the thirsty soul other than a relationship with the living God.

He is waiting at the finish line, friends.  Run fast.  To Him, only.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


I've signed up for THE RACE, but

Today I don't feel like "pressing on."
Today I feel lethargic.
I slept too late.
I slept too long.

Today my eyes are foggy and tired.
I can barely even see the finish line way out there.

How did it get so far away?
I can't possibly run that far!

Did I sign up for this?
I don't even have good sneakers!

That prize just seems so unattainable.
So out of my reach.
What was I thinking?

I'm probably gonna start strong, then end up walking anyway.
Like I always do.
I'll never win, no chance of that.

My sneakers have holes, they're worn out.
No cleats, and I barely have the strength to bend down and lace them up.

I'll probably come in last, just barely dragging myself over the finish line.


I have my own personal cheering team?
Jesus is here?
Jesus, you are here?
You want to coach me?

Remind me about that prize again...

Ok, then.

Thanks, Lord, for reminding me again what's at stake here.
Thank you for helping me suit up today, Jesus.
Thank you for bending down and lacing up my sneaks for me.
Thanks for clearing up my vision and helping me again to see the prize at the end.
Thanks for training me, too, for I know this is definitely not a sprint.
Thanks for giving me your love,
   your courage,
   your motivation,
   your energy,
   your determination.

And that prize.  Oh, that prize!
Let's go win that thing!

Yeah, let's do this.
With you cheering me on from the end,


"I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."  (Philippians 3:14)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Prayer of Abandonment


That OTHER THING that is just too easily chosen?  That robs me of THE BEST THING?

   Is it reading a book, instead of listening to you, Jesus?
   Is it eating unhealthy snacks, instead of valuing this body you've given me?
   Is it wishing/coveting others' travels and adventures, rather than trusting You for Your
     uniquely-planned adventures in my life?
   Is it focusing on Facebook, rather than seeking your Face?
   Is it writing my stuff, rather than reading your Word?
   Is it living for the here and now, rather than for the forever and ever?
   Is it spending money on food and foolish things, rather than making "Kingdom" 

If I say I'm giving you EVERYTHING, then why do I keep choosing THE OTHER THINGS?

   Help me Lord with my weaknesses!
   Help me to ABANDON myself to you!
   Help me to joyously jump out into your strong, trustworthy arms!
   Help me run boldly, fully trusting you, at the Goliath monsters in my life!

       Everything I am.
       Everything I have.
       Everything I own.
       Everything I hope for.
       Everything I'm afraid of.
       All those I love.
       All of my disappointments.
       All of my dreams.

I give it all to you, Jesus.
I ABANDON it all to you.

Help me surrender.

You are good.  You are THE BEST THING.