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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Never Alone

Alone.  By yourself.  It is not a good feeling.  My elderly neighbor had fallen down and six hours later my wife and another neighbor had discovered her on the kitchen floor, unable to get up.


As a teenager, elk hunting with my Dad in the woods of Eastern Oregon, the terrain suddenly became unfamiliar.  Stories of a small plane that had once crash-landed in the same area and the pilot wandering for days swirled in my head as I desperately tried to keep calm and find my way to the road.  Lost.  Alone.  Afraid.  Confused.


In the story of Jesus' birth, he is identified by the name "Immanuel."  It is a very powerful name.  It literally means "God is with us."  In the Old Testament, names almost always had specific meaning that told part of the person's story.  In Isaiah 7 where this is first used, it gives us the expectation that God is up to something.  In Matthew it is made clear – Immanuel is Jesus, Immanuel is God with us.


I was struggling this last week.  Struggling to be more patient, to be more faithful to prayer, struggling to be a better father, struggling to be more balanced in life.  It was beginning to feel a bit like that teenage experience in the woods of Eastern Oregon – not quite sure where I was and not quite sure how to get out.


As I struggled, I was met in that struggle by Immanuel – God is with me.  It really is one of the most amazing truths of the Christian faith and it just flowed over me – I may be in the midst of a struggle but I am not alone.  I may feel lost or I may be laid out on the floor but I am not by myself.  Immanuel is there and that makes all the difference in the world.


And Immanuel kept showing up in the form of a text from a friend, another friend dropping by the office, the prayers of another friend and as Pam and I prayed together.


What a gift we have been given!  To never be alone, to never be forgotten, to always have the presence of Jesus with us!  We have the greatest present of all – the presence of God.


"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. " (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)


Don't forget to celebrate the presence of Jesus this Christmas.  You are not alone.





Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't lose Jesus

Have you been distracted lately?  I sure have.  It is the season for it, you know.  The holidays are supposed to be the joyful, peaceful, easy-livin' time.  But the reality is far from it.  Work schedules, vacation schedules, parties, family get-togethers, shopping, financial pressures, etc, etc.  They all add up to distraction, a mind going a million different directions at the same time. 

As the pastors gathered together at 8:30 each day this week to pray, one of the passages we used to guide our prayer time was Isaiah 6:1-7.  It is the account of Isaiah going into the temple and having this amazing encounter with God.  He sees God sitting on a throne surrounded with his angels.  There is smoke and there are earthquakes at the sound of God's voice.  Quite an amazing description.

As I read the description of Isaiah's encounter with God, one thing became clear – Isaiah was not distracted by anything!  He was face-to-face with God and there wasn't another thing that mattered.  Isaiah was totally focused.

As I sat reading those words, struggling mightily to have any sense of  concentration on my prayers to God, being distracted by way too many things, a longing nudged my heart.  The longing was for a clearer vision of God that would overshadow the competing distractions I found myself being consumed by.

Don't lose Jesus this Christmas.  Practice saying "no."  Say no to over-extending, over-spending, over-eating, over-scheduling, over-partying.  Isaiah wasn't distracted because he was in the presence of the One who is greater than anything else we can be distracted by.  Enter into the presence of Jesus by taking the time to be quiet, reading the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke, worshipping with your friends and family, thanking God for all the goodness you have experienced.  Don't lose Jesus.

Peace and Grace,