Thursday, December 31, 2015


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Gen. 43:1-14
Regarding the second journey to Egypt, it’s Judah who steps forward. Reuben had offered his sons, as if Jacob would find comfort in putting his grandchildren to death. Judah offers himself.
Judah is no longer a young man. Perhaps Jacob sees maturity in him. Maybe he’s just more trustworthy than Reuben at this time.
But, like it or not, they must have food. Sometimes, God gets us where He wants us through bad situations. It’s been true of us. It’s been true in our children’s lives as well. Most of the time—at least for people I know—God doesn’t appear in a burning bush and audibly tells us where to go. I wish He did.
It does sometimes seem that when we’re up against a rock, God is getting ready to work drastically in our lives.
It is so with Jacob. He asks God for mercy and submits to the destiny God has chosen for him.
Complete surrender to the will of God is often hard to achieve without recognizing our utter dependence on God, and that usually comes in the midst of trouble. Perhaps that’s why James writes to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” And, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Every good and perfect gift is from God. We recognize that when we’ve nowhere else to turn.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Sometimes We Cannot See the Hand of God

 Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: written November 20
Thoughts on Genesis 43
Sometimes we cannot see the hand of God, especially when life seems to be against us. Recently, at a memorial service for one of my last year’s AP students, the pastor quoted John Piper, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
As it is with us, so it was for Jacob and his sons. They could not see God’s plan. Joseph—unknown to the brothers—had been harsh. He’d kept Simeon as a guarantee they’d return. He’d demanded they bring back Benjamin, and he’d put all their money back into their bags. Things sure looked bleak for Jacob and his sons. The brothers’ hearts fell, and they wondered, “What has God done to us?” And, Jacob, too, responded with dejection, stating, “Everything is against me.”
Are those not the very feelings we have in times of distress? We don’t understand God. We feel like the whole world is against us. Hearts sink. Fear takes hold, and we can become so discouraged.
As Piper stated, God is always at work in ways we cannot see. For the sinning brothers, there would be mercy. For the mourning father, there would be reuniting and joy. But, not on this day. On this day brothers and father alike were fearful and sad.
Yet, God was at work and the house of Jacob could not see it at all. How could they?
John Piper’s words sank deep into me on Saturday. They bear repeating; they are so biblical.
“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
These words and this narrative are both a reminder and a comfort.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Dear Christa—
Tomorrow is Christmas and it’s time for Jesus to be born. As I sit quietly pondering all the many preparations that go into Christmas, I can’t help wondering what Joseph and Mary would think of Christmas today.
The tree is lit and decorated. There are lights up the stairs and over the windows. The nativity set, that Jay and I painted so many years ago, is displayed on the coffee table. We’ll have enchiladas for supper, and our own traditional corned beef will go into the crockpot before we go to bed.
As music and smells waft around the decorated house, Christmas in Colorado couldn’t be farther from the real Christmas of Bethlehem all those many years ago. Very nondescriptly Jesus was born. Mary herself took care of cleaning the baby she’d just given birth to and He—God—was placed in a manger because there wasn’t any place else to put him. It was night. It was cold. And, shepherds came to see something they couldn’t quite figure out.
After the shepherds saw Him, they spread the word about the Child and the angels. Everyone was amazed at what they said, and then everyone went back to their work. Only Mary “treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart.”
In a week the tree will be stuffed back in its box. The lights and decorations will go back into their tubs and be shoved into the designated shelves in the basement. Christmas dishes will be put away and the old and familiar will replace them. Jay and I and our students will return to school, and we’ll pick up where we left off.
And, if we are not careful, Christmas will end—as it so often does—in Luke, chapter 2. But Jesus’ birth was only the beginning. Luke started his story at the beginning, but it did not end there. The future held more, so much more.
So, Luke continues his account to his friend, Theophilus, through the life and ministry of Jesus, through the crucifixion and resurrection on Easter morning, and His appearances and ascension, where, not a baby, but God our Savior returns to His pre-incarnate existence.
So, this Christmas Eve, let’s ponder—as Mary—Christmas.
Happy Christmas, once again, my dear friend—Christa.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Journey: Luke 2

Dear Christa—
Sometimes we just end up where God wants us to be through a set of circumstances that we have no control over. So it was with Joseph and Mary. Both descendants in the line of David, they traveled to Bethlehem to register for a census, a requirement of a government not much liked at the time by the Israelites.
It was surely a difficult journey of at least three days. Perhaps Mary—ready to deliver—considered the prophesy in Micah that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but I’m doubting it. No one knows, but I’m guessing she was mainly focused on the trauma and inconvenience of it all. Even a godly woman like Mary had to have had her moments of weariness and frustration. And, a pregnant woman about to have a baby is not going to look on such a trip with enthusiasm.
It’s hard—maybe even impossible—to see a glorious future in our days of suffering. We’re far more apt to question God’s plan than to rest in the hope of a bright future, especially if the future appears anything but bright. So, Joseph and Mary trudged on toward Bethlehem to do what they had to do, register in the town of their ancestry. They also trudged on to fulfill a plan that had been laid down before the foundations of the world.
Although Joseph and Mary had been visited by angels, they still lived out most days just like us, occupied with the same duties of making a living and keeping a house, bearing and raising children. One day folds into the next, and it’s hard to see that all those steps were planned and have a purpose bigger than ourselves, but they do.
 Certainly, they took heart by remembering the words of the angel, and we must take heart by remembering the words in the Bible, as we step out into journeys that we have little control over.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Holy Spirit

Dear Christa—
Many things must have been revealed to Zechariah and Elizabeth. When Mary arrives, Elizabeth knows that Mary will bear Jesus—the Messiah, God, very God—because she refers to her as the “mother of my Lord.”
Specific things about John were revealed as well. For the Holy Spirit comes over Zechariah at the naming of John the Baptist. The trinity Godhead is evident in the coming of Jesus in every way, particularly the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, the communicator and comforter of all Christians, would overshadow Mary, and she would become pregnant with God as a child.
Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied the destiny of his son.
The Holy Spirit oversaw Creation as revealed in John 1. He is the impetus of Jesus’ incarnation and the avenue of power that raised Jesus from the dead. The Holy Spirit, the very essence of God, remains and walks our path with us.  He opens the eyes of the unbeliever to draw him or her to faith in Himself.
How little we expect from God, yet He has revealed Himself through the Holy Spirit, the Comforter that Jesus promised would come and remain. He manifested God’s power—His power—from the beginning to the end of Jesus’ time on earth.
He walks with us through joy and sorrow, through yesterdays and tomorrows, and He’s ever present in all our todays.
Such power, such love, such intentionality. Yet, because God is no longer flesh, we forget He is still with us.
Before and after God became a baby in a manger, He dwelt and dwells with us. He is the Holy Spirit, and He is here.
And, He is God—God with us.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything 

Monday, December 14, 2015

To Be Like Mary

Dear Christa—
Luke 1: 26-38  - To Be Like Mary
One of the most striking things about Mary is that she believed the angel Gabriel. She does ask how she could be a virgin and have a baby, but she doesn’t doubt that it will happen.
Gabriel tells her two significant things. He tells her that God Himself will place Himself in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, he tells her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and states, “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary was young and she simply believed God. As I get older, sometimes I feel more like Zachariah than Mary. It should be just the opposite. With a history of seeing God’s work over the years, one would think we’d grow more confident with age, but that’s not always the case.
As we become more knowledgeable of the world and see the spiritual and physical struggle between good and evil, we can become somewhat jaded. At times we feel like protecting ourselves from God’s plan when woe and destruction comes our way. We, in a sense, make theological excuses for God when it appears He is not at work.
We get comfortable with our surroundings and don’t expect God to work in powerful ways. We can resist stepping out in faith and belief that God is all-powerful and He actually does powerful things instead of just being able to do powerful things. To grow old in our American Christian culture can dull instead of sharpening our faith.
Maybe that’s why I like working around teenagers who see risks as adventurous—who are more willing to “put God out there” so to speak, who are willing to live a not so guarded Christianity.
Oh, to be like Mary—to simply respond, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Way Back: Luke 1:5-14

Dear Christa—
Way Back to the Beginning: Luke 1:5-14
Luke was serious when he said he investigated “from the beginning.” His account takes him even before Mary is pregnant with Jesus.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were both descendants of Aaron, the priestly line in Israel. Luke tells us they were “upright in the sight of God.” They were older, and in all their years they had not been blessed with a baby. Though disappointed, they were not bitter. They did everything good Jewish people did in living out their devotion to God.
As Zechariah was performing his duties in the temple, unexpectedly, the angel Gabriel appears before him. I don’t know what angels look like. There must at least at times be some kind of distinction, for their first words tend to be something to alleviate fear. Gabriel names him by name—“Zachariah.” That’s significant.
We are not lost in a sea of people. God and the angels know us by name. God even knows the number of hairs on our head. He knows us. He knows who we are, not as a mass of humanity, but as individuals with names. And, He knows our pain.
“Zechariah, your prayer has been heard.” How many years had they prayed for a child? How many years did it appear that request had fallen on deaf and unresponsive ears—yet it had not.
Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son and he would be a “joy and delight” to them.
No prayer, no matter how long we pray, goes unheard. Isn’t it easy to give up hope and assume that God will not move on our behalf? Yet, Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t stop praying, and they didn’t stop following God.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, December 7, 2015

That We May Know Him

Words for the Season, that We May Know Him
Dear Christa—
The book of Luke has an introduction. It is written to a specific person, Theophilus. And, it clarifies that it is a near second-hand account of the events of Jesus’ life that he has “thoroughly investigated.”
Luke was a doctor, educated, and careful. He believed the account of Jesus because he knew and had questioned the people who had been there. It’s one thing to read about something that happened. It’s so much more convincing to talk to those who were there—who can tell us exactly what happened.
And, Luke wasn’t a shabby investigator. He looked into it all “from the very beginning.” He writes his friend with a purpose, the purpose to share his findings so that Theophilus, as well, could be convinced that the claims of Jesus were valid—that Jesus was who He said He was—the very Son of God who came to redeem the world—the promised Savior, alluded to way back in Genesis—ages ago. He presents that Jesus is God; He has a plan, and He’s still active in our world.
Don’t we all need to know that? Don’t we all at times doubt the incredulousness of it all? Don’t we all need Luke’s’ words that He carefully investigated from the beginning?
I’m so glad he wrote Theophilus. And I’m so glad his inspired letter remains today.
Sometimes I, too, need an “investigated account” to “know the certainty of the things” I’ve been taught. In today’s world of mega telescopes and microscopes and where people can readily talk around the world in an instant, it can seem a strange thing indeed that God would come in the flesh and live with us—that He would die for our sins and return to a heaven we cannot see and wait more than 2000 years to return when His disciples said He was coming soon.
Where is this Son of God? What is this Christianity that sits among a number of religions blanketing our planet, tucked remotely in a universe surrounded by more than we can comprehend?
Luke didn’t just write for Theophilus; he wrote for me; he wrote for us all.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Not Just Another Day

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Gen. 42:1-24
I would imagine that the day Joseph’s brothers arrived started as any other day. We really don’t know what a day will bring forth—unexpected sorrow or unexpected joy. One thing is for sure: when those brothers arrived, Joseph knew his life had just taken a turn.
For whatever reason, Joseph accuses them of being spies against Egypt and tosses them into prison. The thought that these 10 men who spent their days keeping sheep were spies is actually a little funny, but no one’s laughing here.
Three days gave them a lot of time to think. Three day in prison gave them the honesty to verbalize their sin. Wayward though they were, they knew the one true God. They knew they had done wrong—and they knew God brings judgement.
It’s interesting that Joseph tells them that he fears God. In a different situation, that statement could have brought comfort, but it certainly does not here.
They remembered Joseph begging them for his life, and they had not listened. Now, they, too, had pleaded for theirs and been denied. And they also see that no sin goes hidden forever. Sin must be confessed and forgiven. There is really nothing else to be done with it. Hiding it only prolongs the torture of dealing with it.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything