Mighty acts

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.” Psalm 145: 3-4

The night Christ was born in a manger, shepherds traveled to see the newborn king. Scripture tells us that they returned “glorifying and praising God” for all they had heard and seen. These men couldn’t wait to tell of God’s “mighty acts.” Since that night over two thousand years ago, the story is still being told: the story of the Word becoming flesh. We marvel at the greatness of this miracle. We marvel that God loved mankind so much that He sent His only Son to save us. We marvel that the Lord of the universe spent His first night on Earth in a lowly manger.

This Christmas season is a time to reflect on the coming of the newborn King, a time to “commend His works” to a new generation. Like the shepherds, we should glorify and praise God for this miracle. Like the shepherds, we should proclaim His “mighty acts” to the world.

The Good Shepherd

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

As a Texas girl who grew up on a ranch, I can’t tell you the number of times we had to bottle-feed a lamb. Sometimes when a lamb was born, the mother wouldn’t make it, or the mom, for whatever reason, would reject the lamb, refusing to let it nurse. In those cases, we would have to step in or the lamb would die. During the winter months, a lot of those lambs slept in the house with us. We would make a pallet on the floor to keep the lamb warm during those cold nights, and my sister, brother, and I would often sleep next to it.

Our heavenly Father takes even more care with us. Isaiah writes that He “tends his flock like a shepherd.” The Good Shepherd shows care and concern for each and every lamb. When we are too weak or tired to walk, He “carries us close to his heart.” He leads us “gently,” protecting and sheltering us from harm. During this Christmas season, find comfort and rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd.

A Nigerian prince needs your help…

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight…” Isaiah 40:4

Did you know that a Nigerian prince needs your help? That’s right. For just a small investment now, you can reap enormous stacks of cash later. Or have you heard that Tom Thumb, or HEB, or well…pick any popular shopping market, will give you a $500 coupon just for posting an ad on your FB page? Not only that, Bill Gates is sending everyone who “likes” a particular post tons of money.

We live in a crooked world. Blackmail, extortion, scams, hustles, and bribes abound. Everyone seems to be in on the take, and upright dealings seem to be a thing of the past. But these crooked dealings are not pleasing to God. Proverbs states that the Lord “hates dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.” Cheating others displays a disdain not only for our fellow man, but for God. But when the Lord returns, He vows to make the crooked straight. In this world, deception and crooked dealings are commonplace and often praised, but when the Messiah returns, He will put an end to such dishonesty. In the meantime, don’t send any money to Nigerian princes.

The Glory of the Lord

“And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:5

Angels sang, shepherds marveled, wise men worshiped, King Herod plotted, and Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.” The birth of the baby in the manger over two thousand years ago transformed history; the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us. He came into this fallen, broken world to save us. He left the glory of heaven so that God’s glory might be revealed on Earth to all men.

During this advent season, we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming Messiah. We rejoice in Him: Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. His glory was and is and is to come, and because of this, we rejoice!

Crowns

“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor, and power.”

The wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Mary poured costly perfume on the Messiah’s feet to anoint Him for his coming burial, and the twenty-four elders place their crowns, symbols of wealth and authority, at his throne. Why? Because He alone is worthy of “glory, and honor, and power.” He is the King who “lives for ever and ever,” the great “I am,” the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the bright morning star. He deserves our praise, our worship, our gifts.

What do you bring Him this Christmas season? Is it your best? Do you bring him your whole tithe or a couple of bucks here and there? Do you offer him daily praise and adoration, or do you mouth a quick prayer over your meal? Do you give generously to those who need, or do you think only of yourself? He deserves the best that we have to give. What “crowns” will you place at his feet today?

Boxing gloves

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Revelations 3: 19

Unlike my husband, I did not spend much time in the principal’s office during my time in elementary school. But one day in my fourth grade class, I teased a classmate who wore braces on her legs. My teacher marched me down to Mr. Hood’s office, and boy was I afraid. I had never really been in trouble before at school, and I had certainly never been marched down to the principal. As I sat in his office, he handed me a pair of boxing gloves and told me to put them on. Then he pushed his telephone across to me and told me to call my parents. This was back in the olden days of rotary dial, and I clumsily attempted to make my gloved hands dial the numbers. After a few seconds, Mr. Hood quietly told me that Sherri, the girl I had teased, had just as much trouble walking and that is why she needed braces. I was ashamed and embarrassed of my actions, and I have never forgotten that lesson. Mr. Hood disciplined me that day because he cared about me, and he was disappointed in my behavior.

The Lord is no different. Because He loves us, He disciplines us. Because He is interested in our character, He corrects us. He loves us too much to let our behavior go unchecked. The Lord desires our repentance, and true repentance results in sorrow for our sins. True repentance means changing our actions.

Mind his little fontanel

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“O Lord, I say to you, “You are my God.” Hear, O Lord, my cry for mercy. O Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle…”Psalm 140: 6-7

In the movie Raising Arizona, Edwina cautions her husband to hold their new baby gently, reminding him to “mind his little fontanel.” After having three of my own children, I completely agree. That little spot on an infant’s head that hasn’t fully developed must be carefully protected. Unfortunately, as children grow they are not nearly as concerned with protecting their heads, or any other body part for that matter, constantly climbing, jumping, and wrestling. Adults aren’t any better. Helmets have been invented precisely because we enjoy engaging in dangerous activities, but at least we recognize that our heads must be protected. Head injuries are dangerous because they have the potential to affect so many aspects of our being like vision, hearing, speaking, and thinking.

The psalmist recognized this as well and thanked God for shielding his “head in the day of battle.” While the psalmist probably meant this literally, I believe we can apply it metaphorically too. Often, we are embroiled in mental battles. Worry, stress, anger, and fear assail us in the battlefield of our mind. We fret over petty grievances. We allow our negative thoughts to poison our actions and words. But when we allow the Lord to be the focus of our meditation, He “shields us” from those thoughts which cause pain and harm. He recognizes our vulnerability and protects us. He hears our prayer for mercy and delivers us.

Mighty Shield

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“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Proverbs 30: 5

Today Michael and I have an appointment with his radiologist who will give him the results of his recent brain scan. Before that, he begins another regimen of chemo, and on Thursday he will meet with two other doctors. We do not know if the news will be good or bad, but we trust in a God whose words are “flawless.” Through the mountains and the valleys of life, He walks with us to sustain us, protect us, encourage us, and love us. He is “a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” That is why in the midst of such sickness and strife we can have a peace that passes understanding. The peace that Christ gives is true, not manufactured. No pill or drink or psychiatrist can produce it. When we sit in that doctor’s office and receive news, He shields us from the arrows of fear and worry. Our confidence is not in a diagnosis or a CT scan, but our confidence is in a God whose love and mercy never fails.

Return of the King

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.” Zechariah 9: 9

Approximately 500 years before the birth of Christ, Zechariah wrote these words, words that hail the coming Messiah. Zechariah lived during the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon. Uprooted from their homes and living in a strange land, the people of God longed for a Messiah to deliver them from captivity. This prophecy gave hope to those who were desperate for salvation. Both Matthew and John reference this verse in the gospels when Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. When Jesus entered the city riding on a donkey, shouts of Hosanna filled the air. The people rejoiced, and rightly so, that the Messiah had appeared. He came to seek and save those who are lost.

Like the Israelites, we too wait in hopeful expectation for the coming Messiah. Christmas is a time to remember his Incarnation, when the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. But it is also a time to look for his second coming, a time when he will wipe away every tear and conquer the grave once and for all. While we anticipate His return, let us “rejoice greatly,” for He has promised never to leave or forsake us.