New Covenant

www.bible.com/1713/luk.22.20.csb

Today is Maundy Thursday on the Church calendar, the day before Good Friday, and the night of the Last Supper, which makes this verse appropriate today. This verse comes from Jesus’ words around the table that night, whilst the disciples were celebrating a traditional Passover, Jesus had in mind something different, and made what is old new again. Instead of a celebration of the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt, Jesus offered a new liberation, a new covenant with Israel and with all who would follow Him. This was liberation from bondage to sin.

We don’t think about that very much, our bondage to sin. Sin never seems like bondage when you first get into it. It just seems a pleasant alternative to doing things the “right way”, shortcuts if you will to getting what we want. Fornication is a shortcut to sex without the tedium and work of marriage. Drinking and drugs are shortcuts to pleasure that we would normally get after working all day and finally getting to rest and have some peace. Foul language is a shortcut to incisive argument, where we don’t actually have to do the work of research and thinking to come up with something important to say. I could go on. Cheating and shortchanging others is a shortcut to the hard work of acquiring wealth. You get the idea.

But while these things don’t seem like bondage at first, if you’ve had any practice at them, you find yourself in chains soon enough. What happens when that girlfriend has a baby? Or your creditors know you’ve been cheating them? Or you can’t stop using curse words in your daily conversation? What started as a choice became a habit, and a habit became a behavior, and a behavior, bondage. And like the Jews in Egypt, we found ourselves in sore bondage.

What Jesus offers is liberty, freedom to the captives. He offers your freedom, not through a self-help program, or weight-loss gimmick. He offers a change of heart, because that’s where sin has taken root. He offers a change of soul, a cleansing of heart and mind that only He can achieve through the sacrifice of the New Covenant, in His blood. But this isn’t something automatic. You must choose it. And it isn’t a one-time choice, but a daily walk. Sin is always crouching at the door, always waiting for a weak moment to strike. Always alluring, always present to offer you an easier way, a quicker way to get what you want. It’s a trap. Jesus’ calls us to a harder way. He calls us to the narrow path. But He offers eternity in exchange. He offers transcendent joy. He offers belonging, relationship, wholeness, well-being, all the joys I could want, found simply and fully in Him. He offers stable relationships, healthy marriages, kids who help heal your heart rather than break it. He offers all that you really want, but don’t know how to get right now. Why? Because He loves you.

Lord help me to embrace Your more difficult path, Your tougher path because I know in my mind and my heart that the rewards are far more fulfilling than the passing pleasures of sin. I know there is joy there, and peace. Grace and mercy to be had for the asking. Help me Lord to know you and all You are worth. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

I Need Joy

www.bible.com/1713/psa.94.19.csb

Its not that its a bad day today. In fact, its been a pretty good day. I was able to go to work today. I cam home. Did not run into anyone with the virus, as far as I know. I was able to talk to people today, and I hoped that listening to their troubles gave then some relief. But coming home is staying in and not going anywhere. This weekend was planned tkt be my daughter’s eighth grade trip to DC. Next week was going to belt wife and I’s 25th wedding anniversary trip, but now we need to cancer that too. She doesn’t want to be away from home so far with all the stuff happening. I don’t blame her.

It seems everyday we wake up to new rules. Everyday new businesses are being told to close for fear of drawing crowds, all except the stores that draw the largest crowds, like grocery stores. Nevermind logic. Each day we are given new insights into how thus virus works, how deadly it is, and what I need to do to stop it. I feel more informed about this one subject than anything else I’ve ever seen in the news.

But on top of all this, churches are voluntarily closed. One place that people can go when times are tough is the church. But now you have to have Internet or a phone to get that kind of ministry. I know it’s not permanent, but its one thing that will help all of us get through the next few weeks. I need the church. I need the social gathering. If where two or three or gathered, Christ is there, there is a sense I feel kind of cut off.

I’m sure I’m not the first to sense it. And maybe I just need to get over it for the duration of this crisis. Others have been cut off from church. I am not the first. Others have survived. I will too. But I am down and need joy. And I know my Lord can bring me joy.

Heavenly Father, this is not a good time. In fact, this is a difficult time. I feel Your church has been slighted. And I am angry. But I know these happen or not at Your word. If we need some time away from pretty buildings and slide presentations, loud music and smoke machines to help us hear your voice again, help me hear it. Help me hear that voice that calls to me day and night, so that I might enter the joy of the Lord. In Your Son’s holy Name, Amen.

Prayer and Petition

www.bible.com/1713/php.4.6.csb

Need something? Ask. That’s basically what God is saying here. Just ask for it. Have a problem? Lift it up to God. He will hear your request. There is no promise here of satisfying that need, but in every request there is surrendering your right to worry about it when you ask God about it.

Is it any wonder that we have an epidemic of anxiety in this world? Did you wake up this morning worrying about something? Are you anxious about today? As much as depends on you, you do what you can. But we trust in an Almighty God. He sees around the corners. He looks ahead in time and can see what’s coming. He knows what the circumstances will be and prepares ahead of time for what you will face. There is nothing that catches God by surprise.

So if God prepares the future for your arrival, then He knows what you will need before you do. If you are going through a test right now, it is because you are being tested for something in the future that you will need today’s lessons for. My hope and prayer for you is that you will learn on the first try.

We were not put on this earth to be happy. That is not our purpose. Sorry. Our purpose is to be joyful followers of Him, finding our true joy in obedience to His will. We were made to conform to the image of His Son. We are most happy when we see His face in the mirror. God is the highest and and best good, the standard of beauty, and the epitome of joy. If you are striving to be happy in this world, you will fail. You can only be truly happy when you are fulfilled in Him.

Dear Father, we come to you this morning with heaviness in our hearts. We come upon another Monday, with the worship of Heaven still fresh in our ears. We pray Father that you would look upon our downcast faces and grant us joy. Show us a glimpse of hope for the joy You posses so that we may long for that true joy. May You fill us Lord today with that hope and direct our steps to walk in Your direction. May we lift up to you today our prayers and petitions of our ordinary life that You May transform our everyday tasks into works of eternal significance. We ask these things today in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Those With Whom God is Pleased

www.bible.com/1713/luk.2.14.csb

You know you are in pretty rare company if you are among those with whom God is pleased. You probably already know that God is pleased with only a few, and those are His who follow Him. Which means that this grand declaration on the night Jesus was born didn’t necessarily apply to all men and women, but to those few who answer this message in faith and follow the Messiah of whom they declare. Upon you is conferred this precious grace.

God knows upon whom His favor rests. Unto all He offers the grand invitation. Come unto Me. Come let us reason together. This message is for you and for all who afar off. Christ came in the flesh that He might live as one of us, to die our death, so that all might come unto Him and be saved. The invitation is offered to all. It is accepted by those upon whom His favor rests. Will it be you?

This is no lottery, where you have a chance of winning. This is like shooting fish in a barrel. All you have to do to win is to play. But the price of entry is your soul. But why not exchange what you cannot keep for something you cannot lose? The price is too high? Can you tell me what amazing things you have done with your life that you can’t afford to give it away? You may give your life to him, even your rags and filth, and He will give you a better life, far more abundant than you can imagine. He doesn’t take your life to keep, but to purify, to cleanse, to make whole again. He wants you to fulfill your purpose, but you must do it His way. You win by playing by His rules.

Give glory to God. If you have submitted to Him and His grace, then you win! his favor rests upon you. Now make today a day for Him! This is a season of joy, not just temporary happiness. Bring joy to your world. Glorify God, because you have already received the best gift ever because of Christmas.

God bless you today.

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

www.bible.com/1713/mat.5.16.csb

If you’ve seen “Elf” around this time of year, you probably know the response to the title above. Will Ferrell’s Elf recommends that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear. That works until you realize you can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

May I recommend another way? This one involves more than your singing voice. This one is your whole life. Let your light shine before men, so that they may see it and give glory to God. Sounds radical, I know. The light that changed your life is now also expected to illuminate others through you. That is not only Christmas cheer, but Christian cheer.

The spirit of Christmas, feeling of warmth, joy and generosity, where does that go December 26th? Why do most only have any of that feeling for the first 25 days of December if then? For then New Years Day is almost an afterthought, a hope that next year will be better than the last. But if that cheer and joy doesn’t follow us into the new year, what then? Doesn’t next year end up being just as sorry as the year before?

The best way to save that cheer is to remember it throughout the year, not by celebrating Christmas, but Christ Himself. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Let us worship Him by sharing His joy with all who will hear. May your January be merry and bright. Your February full of hope and promise. Your March be joyful and so on. There is really no reason not to carry this joy with you throughout the year. If you need to keep your tree up as a reminder, it’s a small price to pay for joy. It reminds us of the tree used as a tool to buy our redemption with His precious blood.

Take and hold on to this Christmas cheer for the One who has brought you joy. Merry Christmas and a very joyful New Year.

Pure Joy

www.bible.com/1713/jas.1.2-3.csb

Joy, joy, joy. Praise be the Lord who reigns on high.

Consider it pure joy. When? When you encounter various happy occasions? Nope. When you encounter various trials, for it is then you know your faith is being tested. Hmmm.

So I should consider an honor than I have been chosen to have my faith tested. I am certain many of us would just as soon pass. Surely God can find better ways of schooling us into maturity than trials and tests. But that’s not how we learn, is it? Were it not for the trials and tests, would we remember that our faith ought to be growing day by day? We should probably thank the Lord that He still loves me enough to test me, and that I am not a lost cause.

What I have found is that with each successful test, some new means of testing is found. When you have been found faithful in your Bible reading, you are tested in your prayer, or it might be your commitment to church, or your finances, or your marriage, especially when you think things are going great. One of your kids may suddenly have a crisis, or you find an unexpected visitor at your door, or something will come along that will test you in areas that you thought were secure, like your health. Ouch.

Even to talk about all these things could test you in another area: worry. Will you trust God to take care of the things you can’t? Would you let God do the worrying for you? Wow.

What James calls for is an attitude that anticipates God’s work in you and welcomes it. Remember, just as you are working toward maturity, God too is working in you. Consider it all joy. For it isn’t about being happy through your life, but joyful, a joy beyond circumstances.

May God bless you today!