Come Glorify the Lord

The news shows and magazines are all doing their year-end reviews, looking over the storylines and headlines of the past 12 months.  While there are a few bright spots in the year, there was mostly tragedy, sadness, suffering, and sorrow.  We just celebrated the angel’s announcement “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).   But where is the “peace on earth?”  What happened to all the “goodwill?” What went wrong?

I believe the answer to these questions, in fact, the answer to all our questions about the state of the world can be satisfied in the first words of this verse:  “Glory to God in the highest.” The Westminster Catechism, created by the church in the 17th century declares that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” When we fail to give God the glory He deserves, it diminishes our ability to enjoy Him and the life He has given us. Paul said that this is the sin of mankind: to know the truth of God but refuse to glorify Him (Rom 1:21). That arrogance sends us spiraling into the abyss of darkness and depravity.

 But if we glorify God, we can see and receive the Light of Life. Our hearts know the truth and we are set free to enjoy God as He intended. And that affects everything else.  It changes us and our human relationships. We think and act on the presence of God within us. We are kind and gracious. We are peaceful and loving. We are humble and compassionate. And the world takes notice.

David gave us both a pattern of worship and reasons for worship in 1 Chronicles 16: 7-36. We worship God when we give Him thanks, remember His goodness, seek Him, tell His story, hold Him in high esteem, sing to Him, and praise and worship Him. We glorify God because He is God and there is none like Him. He is faithful. He cares about us and for us. He is great and worthy of praise. He is splendid and majestic and mighty. He created all things – including you and me – and holds all things together. He is our Savor and Redeemer. He is eternal. And if all that wasn’t enough, He is good and His love endures forever.

Do you want to see peace on earth? Or maybe just peace in your life? Start by giving God the glory He deserves. Beloved nothing else will change your heart and your world more.

Advent 2022: How to Save the World

“For to us a child is born . . .”

Ask a general how to save the world and he will tell you to use military force and control.  Ask a humanitarian and she’ll probably suggest programs to eradicate poverty and hunger.  Pose the same question to politicians and they’ll tell you they need money, money, and more money to appoint a committee with sub-committees to study the matter.  Teachers will tell us that education is the answer and The Beatles said that “All You Need is Love.” If I were going to save the world I would round up the criminals and terrorists and rioters and child abusers and abortionists and drug lords and put them all on a one-way trip to the moon.  But God had a different plan – He determined to save the world through a baby. But not just any baby.

It seems strange to me that a helpless infant would be the answer to the woes of the world.  He couldn’t feed himself or change himself or get from place to place by himself.  He slept all the time like any other baby.  But He wasn’t any other baby.  He who could not feed Himself would feed multitudes. The little one that couldn’t change Himself would change the fate of the human race on a cross.  The babe who had to be carried from place to place will carry all who believe to heaven.  This sleeping child would rise from the sleep of death to awaken the souls of men.

This baby left the glory of heaven to save the entire human race.  He brought peace between God and man.  He broke the chains of sin.  He erased the curse of death.  This baby took on your sin and mine; He bore the punishment that you and I rightly deserved.  He surrendered His body to the cross and the grave. And He did it all out of love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Yes, God used a Baby to do what generals, humanitarians, politicians, teachers, and pop stars could never do.  Jesus brought peace with God to all who will believe on Him. And that, Beloved, is how to save the world.

Advent 2022: The Ancient Story of Christmas

When we tell the Christmas story we tend to tell it as if God send Jesus as a reaction to the state of humanity. But look at the words of the Old Testament prophet: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). This is a prophecy of the coming Messiah – the Son of God and King over Israel. Did you catch the last line: “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”? The word “ancient” in Hebrew means eternal. It speaks of the eternal nature of God the Son and the plan that has been in place from before the creation of the world.

God was not taken aback when Eve grabbed for the forbidden fruit. He did not look upon the mess humans had made and concluded that this was the only solution. He did not send His Son in reaction to man’s sin. The Bible says that Jesus was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Jesus said that the kingdom was “prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). The plan for redemption – the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ – was established before God ever said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).

When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are celebrating the plan of the ages. We are celebrating – not just the reason for the season – but the reason for creation. When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating God’s eternal purpose – to reveal His love. Do you understand what that means for you? Long before your affair, the abortion, that little white lie that exploded on you, the time you shook your fist at heaven, the decisions you made that kept you awake at night  – it was all foreseen before you were born. The Baby in the manger was not in reaction to your sin but was out of His great heart. God was not shocked by your sinful actions. He made the way, Beloved before you needed the way. Because He has loved you from ancient times.

Advent 2022: Do You Really Understand Christmas?

Our granddaughter was born with syndactyly, the malformation of the fingers on her right hand. To us, she is still “practically perfect in every way.” We believe God is going to use that little hand as a powerful testimony to His glory. Still, she is starting to notice that it – and she – is different. Not less than anyone else, just different. She asked me yesterday, “Nana, why is my hand like this?” I told her that is just how God made her. “God didn’t make me,” she said. “Joy,” I asked, “what is your memory verse from Honey (Sunday) School?” She said, “God made everything!” complete with hands spread wide. “So if God made everything He made you, too, and your hand” I answered. “Oh!” she said, “God made me!” “That’s right, sweet girl!” Joy knew the facts, but she didn’t understand what they meant.

It’s Christmas time and that means it’s time to think about the Baby in the manger and about shepherds, angels, and wise men. But just like Joy, if all we know are facts then we don’t understand why He came at all. If we don’t recognize that this Baby is about us and for us then we don’t know the whole story of Christmas. This Baby came for more than parties and pretty paper and ribbons and lights all aglow. He came with a mission. When the Lord sent a dream to Joseph to tell him about the Baby in Mary’s womb, He said, “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Luke records Jesus’ words: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). That’s you and me. The Christmas story is about God sending His Son to find us who are lost and bring us back home.

And the Christmas story is as much about the death of Jesus as it is about His birth. If God only sent His Son to be born then we are still lost. If He does not grow up then you and I have no real hope. The Baby in the manger must become the Man on the cross if we are to be saved. He must become the resurrected Lord if we are to have eternal life. This innocent and precious boy must bear the weight and punishment of all of our sins or Christmas means nothing.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Beloved. But more than that I wish you the heart of Christmas: “that you may grasp how wide and long and high and deep” is God’s love for you (Eph 3:18).

Advent 2022: Joseph – A Man of Mercy

In the telling of the Christmas story, Joseph, the earthly “step-father’ of Jesus doesn’t get much attention. Little is recorded about him other than he was a carpenter by trade (Matthew 13:55) and a descendant of David (John 2:4). But I learned something recently about him that had previously escaped my attention in the rush to get to the birth story.

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:18-19).

In the eyes of the Jewish community, Mary had committed a grievous sin – becoming pregnant as an unmarried woman was bad enough but to conceive a child with someone other than her betrothed was unforgivable. According to the religious law, the “righteous” thing to do was to “bring her to the door of her father’s house, and there the men of the town shall stone her to death” (Deuteronomy 22:21). It was a sin that merited public execution. Instead, Joseph chose to handle the situation quietly to spare her from disgrace and punishment. And because he acted mercifully, God, through the pen of Matthew, declared Joseph “a righteous man.”

Jesus esteemed mercy; He said the merciful will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7) and declared that God “desires mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 12:8). His brother James proclaimed, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). I think, sometimes the church has it backward. Much like the Jewish religious leaders, we think that righteousness means always doing the right thing; Joseph shows us that righteousness is doing the Jesus thing – showing mercy. After all, that is the heart of the Christmas story: God’s love poured out in mercy to sinners like you and me through Jesus Christ.

This Christmas season, is there someone in your life that needs mercy – someone who needs love? No, they probably don’t deserve it – but neither did you. It will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, Beloved, but it is the Jesus thing. Let’s commit to being righteous people – let’s be people of mercy.

Advent 2022: Sweet Little Baby Boy

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (Luke 2:6).

They say that having a baby will change your life completely, and every parent knows that’s true. Everything changes when a baby comes. Your time is no longer your own – your days are filled with feedings and diaper changes, and more of the same through the night. Your money is not yours anymore – whoever imagined someone so tiny would need so much stuff? Your priorities are different, your goals are reshaped, and your entire identity is redefined. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.

There is a Baby who will change your life in far greater ways. This Baby will give your life direction and purpose. This Baby will bring you peace in the midst of a storm. He will comfort you when you are weary and broken. He will lift you up when you fall. This Baby will bring you immeasurable Joy. He can wash away the stain of guilt and shame and make you new. This Baby brings hope where all hope is faded. He brings light into the darkest night. This Baby brings healing to body and mind and heart. This Baby will change the way you think and the way you live. He will transform your heart and cause you to love in ways you never expected. And if all that wasn’t enough, this Baby will change your life beyond this life.

This Baby left the glory of heaven to save the entire human race. He brought peace between God and man. He broke the chains of sin. He erased the curse of death. This Baby took on your sin and mine; He bore the punishment that you and I rightly deserved. He surrendered His body to the cross and the grave. He did it all so that you and I could have life – full and abundant and eternal. He gave Himself away so that you could get yourself back. This Baby – the Lord Jesus Christ – changes everything.

I pray you know this Baby, not just know about Him. I pray that His birth is more than a familiar story to you – that it is truth that is firmly rooted in your heart. I pray that His name is sweet on your lips and even sweeter to your soul. I pray that this Baby is your Savior, Beloved, and the Lord of your life.

Advent 2022: Christmas Light

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

My granddaughter loves Christmas lights. Anytime we drive at night, even in the middle of summer, she is on the lookout for them. We tell her that the Christmas lights are not out yet but she always says, “Maybe we’ll see some.” I love that Joy is always searching for light in the darkness.

When I was a kid we visited a park with beautiful caverns. In one deep, dark cave the park guide turned out all the artificial lights and the room was plunged into total darkness.  For a moment I was overcome by a sense of despair and fear.  In that pitch-blackness, I lost all orientation. I had no idea where the exit was, or where anyone else was.  If my friend had not grabbed my hand, I would have thought I was completely alone – that I had been abandoned.  Then the guide lit one small match.  All eyes were drawn to the light. With that single flickering flame, the darkness was overcome. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light – but where there is even the smallest light, darkness has lost its power.

Adam and Eve plunged this world into sin and we are disoriented in spiritual darkness.  It is the kind of darkness that makes you feel completely alone and abandoned. Oh, the world offers a distorted light that is all glitz and glitter and flash. But it’s not the kind of light that helps you find your way.  Yet we are not to despair. God had a plan from before the creation of the world – before He called forth the light (Gen 1:3). He sent His One and Only Son to be “the Light of the world” (John 8:12).  His light overcame sin and evil and death. His light has the power to overcome the darkness and despair of living in this sin-sick, evil world with all its struggles and heartaches, and pain. He is “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9).

Paul wrote, “God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).  This Advent season, as you enjoy the lights of Christmas, let the light of the Christ Child come in and dispel the darkness.  Beloved, come live in the Light of Jesus Christ.

Fruit Inspection

Steel-toe boot warning.

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious . . .” (Galatians 5:19).
If you claim to be a Christian, but you indulge in porn, I question your claim. If you profess to be a Christian, but profanity spews out of your mouth, I’m going to doubt you. If you tell me you’re a Christian, but you’re unfaithful to your spouse (either in act or desire), I find it hard to believe you. If you can sing the old hymns or the latest Christian songs, but you lie and deceive, your songs also lie. If you are sexually immoral, your choices defy your profession. If you go to church on Sunday morning and are yelling at everyone in your house by Sunday evening, I wonder why you bother to go to church at all. If money is your passion and you step on others to climb the ladder, your actions – not your claims – tell the truth about you.


If you claim to be a Christian and you are kind and patient with your elderly, grouchy neighbor, I will tend to believe you. If you say you are a Christian and you turn away from temptation, I’m more apt to agree. If you go to church on Sunday morning and are still full of joy on Thursday, if moral goodness marks your life, if you’re gentle when speaking to your children, if you bring peace instead of strife wherever you go, if you are loving and faithful to your spouse – I will trust you and I will trust what you say about this Jesus you claim to follow. Paul said our actions reveal our true nature. We either confirm or refute our testimony by how we live.

I am not judging anyone – But Jesus did say, “By their fruit, you will recognize them” (Matt 7:16). I’m just inspecting fruit. And yes, I see some bad apples in my own life. So what do I do about them? Do I determine to act better? Grit my teeth and be nicer?  No, this is not about behavior modification, this is about your heart. Jesus also said, “The good man [or woman] brings good things out of the good stored up in him”( Matt 12:35). A good heart – a heart that is set on Christ – is full of good fruit. A bad heart – a heart that is set on the world, self, or pleasure – is full of rotten fruit.

Paul said that “those who live like this [the first paragraph] will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21).  In other words, there won’t be any rotten fruit in heaven. Check your fruit, Beloved. What is true about your life? What is true about your heart? 

Sin No More

When I read the Gospels, I marvel at Jesus’ patience and understanding with sinful people. No, He was not (is not) gentle with sin – He called it out for what it was. He didn’t excuse it or call it a disease or disorder. He didn’t accept it or tolerate it or celebrate it. Sin was and is appalling. It needs to be confronted – and Jesus did. Yet even while correcting sin, was always gracious to those lost souls caught in the devil’s snare. “He had compassion on them because He saw that they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:6).

While walking through Jerusalem one day, Jesus passed by a pool that was believed to have healing properties when the waters were stirred by “an angel.” A helpless invalid had laid by the side of the pool for thirty-eight years, waiting and hoping for his chance to slip into the waters at just the right moment. But he was alone and never managed to get there. Along came Jesus who healed Him. At a later encounter, Jesus told the man, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:1-14). He healed first, then corrected. We need to take notes.

On another occasion, Jesus was teaching in the temple and the religious leaders brought to him a woman caught in adultery. But just the woman – isn’t that interesting? He defended her against her accusers – but he did not defend her actions. When Jesus confronted the men with their hypocrisy they left in shame.  After assuring her that He did not condemn her, Jesus told the woman, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:1-11). I have no doubt that she did. Grace and correction always work hand in hand.

I often look up words to build a devotional and that is what I was doing as I was developing a different point when God turned this in a whole other direction. When I looked up “sin no more” I found these two stories – and something else. Those same words appear again in the Scriptures when the writer of Hebrews talked about the new covenant in Christ. The Lord said, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Heb 8:12). No more. No more guilt. No more shame. No more condemnation. Because all your sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus. The affair. The abortion. The sexual immorality. The lies. That sin you don’t want to remember? You won’t have to Beloved, because in Christ your sins are “no more.”

Look How Much You’ve Grown!

Joy has grown so much this last year. It’s obvious when you look at her. She’s taller and stronger. Her legs and arms are longer. Even her hair is longer. Her vocabulary is incredible, she doesn’t use baby talk and she annunciates her words very well. She can do more things for herself like spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread. And she’s learning how to calm herself when she gets upset. (I hope she will teach me.) Potty training is still a work in progress, but I know she will get that too. One thing hasn’t changed – that mega-watt smile can still melt Nana’s heart. She’s a growing, beautiful, amazing little girl.

Which makes me wonder, how do we know that we’re growing spiritually? We don’t get taller, but we should see signs that mark spiritual maturity. Like Joy, our speech is a clear indication of growth. Jesus said it’s in our words. “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matt 12:35). We talk about God and the things of God. We reject profanity and gossip and complaining (Eph 4:29; Phil 2:14).

It’s also seen in what we desire. Growing in God means we want the things that He wants and we are repulsed by the things that offend Him (Ps 40:8; Col 3:5). We look and act more like Jesus, which is God’s goal all along – “to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Rom 8:29). We are compassionate (2 Cor 1:3-4), kind and gentle (2 Tim 2:24-25), loving (1 Cor 13), self-controlled (1 Pet 1:13), and “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (Jas 1:19).

Perhaps the most visible sign of spiritual maturity is how we deal with sin in our lives. As spiritual babes, we sin and the Spirit convicts us of our sin. We confess, repent, and receive forgiveness. But we go back to it again. And we repeat the cycle, sometimes multiple times. The true evidence of spiritual growth is when we stop going back to our sin. When the Spirit helps us recognize the pattern and break the cycle, we’ve made a major step in spiritual maturity.

I look at myself and see some signs of growth as well as places where I’m still a toddler in Christ. You too? Growth comes when we take in the things that nurture our spirit, like God’s Word, fellowship with other believers, prayer, and resting in the Lord. And trust. Paul said, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil 1:6). God’s not going to give up on you, Beloved. Don’t give up on yourself.