By Dan Jean
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.
There would be no room for the family tonight even if Mary seemed ready to give birth. The innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary away was just doing his job. There were no empty rooms. There was nothing left of the evening meal and everything was put away. It was late. He was tired. Please, just go somewhere else. He didn’t realize that this mother was chosen, this birth special, and that upon the shoulders of this child-to-be would rest the future of the world. The innkeeper couldn’t know that this babe would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.”
Today there are mothers carrying babies who have no place to stay. These babies have no permanent home, and the future they face is clouded with doubt. No one seems to care what potential they have. No one sees their gifts. No one gives them a safe place to be born and grow. Please, just go somewhere else.
Governments tussle over borders and budgets. Walls promise to keep strangers out and us safe. Fear overshadows compassion and care, even for those who cannot care for themselves. Principles, policies, and positions speak for us. Please, just go somewhere else.
The child of Christmas, born in a manger, ushered in the kingdom of God showing the way toward justice and righteousness for all humanity. The baby Jesus would promise hope for all babies born, calling them all to life abundant and eternal. In this season we are challenged to stand in the innkeepers shoes. Will we make room for those who need a place? Do we turn them away? Isaiah answers our doubts. “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
By Jennie Mayes
“There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.” (The Message)
How fitting that the verses assigned to me have at the core of their message, do not worry. I have worried about things from my very first memory in life. Sometimes, I worry about the big things we all do, like a family member who is ill or a friend who is struggling through hard times. But most of the time I worry about things of no consequence at all: Will I hit all the red lights on the way to work? Will my team win Amazing Race this season?
The shepherds who were tending their flocks that holy night were doing what we all do: their job. Their profession was not one of glamour or status, but was necessary and needed. While going about their typical routine, they had an encounter that would change their lives. Were they like me and worrying about problems big and small? And how did their view of problems change after their interaction with the angel? Though they were fearful in that moment, were they able to change their lives moving forward with the knowledge that God and now Christ would be with them always?
There have been moments in my life when God has captured my attention and my soul. In those times, I’m reminded that I don’t need to worry. I can rest in the knowledge that the love of God will carry me. I pray that you too will be able to fear not and rest this Advent season.
By Lance Mayes
It is easy to be afraid; we have so much to be afraid of — at least that’s what they tell us. We need to be afraid of North Korea. We need to be afraid of ISIS. We need to be afraid of foreign and domestic terrorists. We need to be afraid of those who want to traffic our children. We need to be afraid of immigrants. We need to be afraid of Muslims.
No we don’t. We don’t need to be afraid. Yes, we need to be wise, but we do not need to be afraid. We can trust that whatever we face, God is with us. We can have confidence that God listens to us.
We are to wait patiently for God. It is difficult for us to wait. We are so used to getting what we want when we want it. We can DVR TV programs and watch them whenever we want and even fast-forward through the commercials. God’s timing may be different than our timing. We can still trust that God has not and will not abandon us.
Be encouraged today. This video is from 2010. The text is from Old Testament times.
No question that putting fear behind us and waiting patiently on God is hard. Sometimes it seems impossible. What are you going through that is causing you fear? What is bringing you down? What is causing you discouragement?
Be encouraged today. Pray that God will give you the strength you need. May God hear our prayers.
By Erica Hanchey
In Psalm 27, David calls upon his experiences of strife, war, and fear in the face of his enemies. He expresses, through prayer and song, his heartfelt desire to worship, even in the midst of war, personal battles, and fear. It isn’t just David’s experience. It is the experience of many today who are battling in war, as refugees, as victims of assault, fear, personal and family struggle, and mental strife.
I envision the strength, light and salvation of the Lord as an armor or force field that moves with and within David. It is a rising spirit that deflects the assaults and speaks to David, saying “No fear.”
There is nothing to fear, for the Lord is our light, our salvation and our stronghold. No advance, no enemy, no threat breaks His shield. As long as we dwell in His house, in the presence of the Lord, fully present and calling upon Him in word, in song, in worship, in prayer, and in action, we take on the shield
“I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
Instead of crying S-O-S, call upon S-L-S … Strength – Light – Salvation. Be immersed in the light and face of God rather than misled in the face of oppression, temptation, and selfish ways. Find patience and strength through faithfulness and through focused, praise-filled and prayerful worship. It is only when we are armed with the strength, light and salvation of the Lord that we are able to see His goodness that surrounds us, without the distractions and challenges to our faith that attempt to break us down. In this we may fulfill the purpose for which we are each uniquely created – to be His light on Earth and a shield for those whose fear and darkness crowd them.
As Jesus called upon the strength of his Father in the wilderness and in the final moments of his sacrifice, God reveals that there is no greater defense than a focused and spirit-filled discipline to worship and serve a higher calling. In this time of Lent, develop a heart for worship and summon your senses to experience the full beauty and loving armor of the Lord.
By Leslie Kandt
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
“The Lord says, ‘If someone trusts me, I will save them. I will protect my followers who call to me for help.'” (Psalm 91:14) These words seem so simple, yet so deep and meaningful, right? It brings a sense of comfort and love to the individual reading; at least it did for me. With all the destruction and immoralities in this world, some of the best verses for believers to read and meditate on are Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16. In fact, the whole chapter can make one feel protected.
One’s personal safety, and the protection of one’s family, is valued greatly in this world, with good reason, of course. Nobody wants to go through struggles in their life. Nobody wants their parents to file for divorce. Nobody wants their loved one to become ill. Nobody wants their child to be bullied on the playground. Nobody wants to feel the heartbreak that comes with these every day battles.
Well, we don’t have to, right? I mean, according to Psalm 91, if we believe in God, nothing bad can happen. Right? We’ll just live our lives and God won’t let anything happen to bring us pain. It’s all good. Right?
Sadly, I believe that is not the case.
Nobody in this world has gone through their life without struggles. Ask anyone around you. I bet you can’t find a single person who hasn’t gone through pain in their life. Remember that girl in high school? She was super pretty, and super athletic? Her parents were super nice and super rich? She couldn’t have possibly gone through any real pain before. Or what about that man at work? Everyone knows him and he spends the whole work day talking and laughing? His son is graduating from medical school at the age of 19, and his daughter is a musical prodigy? He seems to get a raise every month, and your boss likes him better than you?
I’m sorry — No scratch that. I’m very happy to break it to you, but even they have to deal with troubles. Pain is a part of life.
So what does this mean? Does this mean that the Bible was wrong? Does this mean that we just don’t believe hard enough? Probably not.
It means that God has a plan. God knows what he is doing. He loves each and every one of us. Imagine the love that you have for your mom, your child, or maybe your spouse, whomever it is that you love the most. You would never want them to go through heartbreak, would you?
It seems crazy, but God loves us even more than that, more than we could imagine. He doesn’t want any harm to come to us. However, he has a plan. He knows that sometimes, we need to go through these struggles.
However, this chapter reassures us that we do not go through these struggles alone. If we let him, God will always work everything out for the best, not just to benefit him, but to benefit us as well. This chapter reassures us that God wouldn’t put us through a situation without giving us the ability to handle it.
So no. Our lives will never be just sunshine and happiness, but if we lean on God, we can forever be comforted knowing that we will be okay, even in the midst of the storms.
By David Goree
Years ago I was in a play at Manor Baptist Church. The play had two characters: Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. I played Judas.
The play portrayed the two disciples meeting after they had each betrayed the Lord in their own ways. Let me tell you: it was difficult for me to deliver Judas’s lines, how he was glad he did what he did and how he rationalized it. It was made even more difficult by our excellent director, who was a devotee of Method Acting. I couldn’t simply “act” my lines. Oh no. I had to live my lines. I had to become a bitter, sarcastic Judas, sputtering my contempt for the ones I had betrayed. To tell you the truth, it kind of messed with my mind. I remember saying a short prayer before and after each rehearsal: “Remember, Lord, this is just a play. These lines do not represent my views.” The prayer was for my benefit, of course, not God’s. God understands the concept of acting, even my cringe-worthy over-acting. Still, I had a hard time connecting with such dark human emotions–especially in the church sanctuary in front of the congregation.
I was reminded of dark emotions when I read Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Psalm 22 is a difficult passage to read. The Psalmist’s images are so evocative. He says, “I am poured out like water” and “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.” The despair and pain are so palpable and so painfully honest. The passage is a plea from a person who has run out of options, run out of hope and nearly run out of faith.
Amazingly, Jesus redeems these dark emotions when he repeats the Psalmist’s words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, Jesus gathers our fears and doubts and bitter disappointments and binds them to His own suffering—if we will accept it. I suppose we could keep our emotions at arm’s length, like bad actors, or, better yet, we could own up to our pain, fears and doubts and lay them at the foot of the cross.
By Paul Goodman
In the darkness, an angel of God appeared to shepherds. They were terrified, but the angel told them not to be afraid and that a Savior had been born, a baby. A choir joined the angel. They sang praise to God and Peace to all who please God.
I like to think that I can put myself in the sandals of the shepherds that night, but I’m not sure that sleeping on an air mattress in a state park is equivalent being alone in the wilderness with wild animals 2000 years ago. I am certain, however, that I would be as scared as the shepherds if an angel suddenly appeared in the night.
What is it that scares you? What is it that diminishes the peace you have? For many people it is a family crisis. For others it is a financial or health crisis. For some, ironically, it’s the holidays. There are a thousand things that can rob us of our peace, if we let them. And that’s the second question: How do you respond to your fears? I love how the shepherds responded. They listened to the good news and they ran to see the baby Jesus.
God wants peace for us. In all you do this season, focus on pleasing God. You are not in the darkness. You are not alone. You have been given a Savior. Set your wants aside. Set your fears aside. Focus on today’s good news and don’t worry about tomorrow. God will be pleased. God grant you Peace.