Saturday, December 31, 2016

Don’t Forget the Benefits!

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”
—Psalm 103:2

My father told me that when he obtained his first job at the age of fifteen years old back in 1922, the only benefit his employer offered him was pay. And, he received that pay in cash in a pay envelope every week. My dad maintained that this was how he was compensated for his employment all the way up through the days of the mid-1950s.

It’s hard for us to imagine that today. From the time I first obtained a paying job in the early 1960s, I was always paid by check. When I became a staff member of Houghton College, while I was also a student there in 1965, I received payment by check and I also received some very limited, but helpful, benefits.

As I moved through the various phases of my working life up until my retirement in 2003, in addition to ever-increasing pay, I also received ever-increasing benefits.

I am told that young people starting out in the working world today pay as much, or in some cases more, attention to the benefits they will receive as they do to their pay. So, benefits have become ever more important.

In the Christian life, we have received one gigantic payment: the death of Jesus on the cross in our behalf that paid, once and for all, the penalty for our sins. That payment gives us such a tremendous value in our walk with Christ that nothing else need matter.

But, God doesn’t stop there. In fact, in some ways, the payment for our sins—though of vital, life-changing importance—is only the beginning.

The Psalmist has affirmed this great truth when he wrote these words recorded in Psalm 103:1-2:

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…

The Psalmist urges us to not forget the benefits of the relationship we have with God. His abiding love, His unending care, His complete protection, His unstoppable gift giving, His… Well, it just goes on and on. The benefits of belonging to God through Christ simply cannot be measured.

As this new day dawns, let’s be certain to praise God for all that He has done for us. And, let’s keep remembering all the benefits we have because we belong to Him.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Light for Revelation

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God…”
—Luke 2:28a

On the eighth day after Jesus’ birth, since they were only five miles south of Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph took their week-old baby to the temple to have the rite of circumcision performed. There they met two magnificent saints of God: Anna and Simeon.

Dr. Luke tells us that a devout and righteous man named Simeon was prayerfully waiting for the Messiah to come. Luke also tells us that the Holy Spirit was upon him.

We must understand that this time frame pre-dates the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost after Jesus ascended to heaven, some thirty-three-plus years later. While we have a number of instances where the Holy Spirit made Himself known to people in the Old Testament, He did not fill all believers as He has done since that day at Pentecost. So, to have the Presence of the Holy Spirit made Simeon a very special servant of the Most High God.

Upon holding Jesus in his arms, Simeon prayed this prayer, recorded in Luke 2:28-32:

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

For those of us who are not of Jewish heritage, this is a critically important acknowledgement that we Gentiles will be grafted into the family of God’s chosen people. Jesus would, indeed, be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” In fact, the faith we have today stems from this important truth. God has revealed Himself to the entire world—to all peoples from every nation whom God, before the foundation of the earth, has chosen to belong to Himself.

As we begin another day, let us keep fully in our mind that we belong to God through His one and only Son, Jesus. He has marked us with the indwelling Holy Spirit. He longs for us to follow Him with obedience, as we bend our sinful, selfish wills to His own perfect will.

Let us rejoice at the salvation that Jesus has brought to us through His shed blood. Let us praise Him that because He conquered death through His resurrection that we, too, will spend eternity with Him.

And, let us be quick to tell those we meet what God has done through His Son. Let us become, more and more, a reflection of His love and grace.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Spreading the Word

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“When they had seen him, they
spread the word concerning what
had been told them about this child…”
—Luke 2:17

The shepherds, who had fallen flat on the ground with their faces pressed into the earth when the angels began to sing, suddenly realized the singing had stopped and the cool night air was again filled only with the sound of the startled, but calming, sheep. What in the world should they do now?

I don’t imagine there was much conversation. Instead, they hurried toward Bethlehem, as Dr. Luke records in Luke 2:16-20:

So they [the shepherds] hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Once the shepherds had seen the baby Jesus, the most natural thing in the world for them to do was to go and tell others what they had observed. And, what a story they had to tell!

It occurs to me, as I think about our response to the good news that God has sent His one and only Son to occupy human flesh—to be completely God, yet completely man—to teach us how to follow in His footsteps, to die on the cross in our place with His shed blood covering our sins once and for all, to rise from the grave on the third day, and to ascend to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the throne of His Father, the only natural thing for us to do is to tell others what Jesus means to us.

As we begin another day, let us do what the shepherds did. Let’s tell others about Jesus. As the Holy Spirit prompts us to speak to the people who cross our pathway, let’s talk about Jesus in the most gentle and respectful way possible.

Let’s be instruments of God’s grace in spreading the good news about His Son. Let’s take on the responsibility that is rightfully ours to spread the news about Jesus.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Choir of Angels

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host
appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on
earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”
—Luke 2:13-14

Nothing stirs the heart quite so much as music. Whether it is the sound of a brass band playing in a parade, a soft jazz combo, the triumphant expression of a mighty pipe organ, the sound of one’s favorite rock band, or the sound of a well-trained choir—nothing reaches into the inner most core of our beings quite like music.

I was very blessed to be raised in a church that loved to sing. As soon as I reached seventh grade, I was asked to join the adult choir. It was a bit of a heady experience for me. But, the much older choir members very graciously and kindly accepted me as a member of the group. I enjoyed singing our weekly anthems very much.

Then, several of us young men formed a gospel singing group and ministered at various churches. It was a very enjoyable and fulfilling opportunity.

In high school, I joined the chorus. We had a particularly skillful teacher, Mr. William R. Brocklebank. He made the chorus experience both educational and extremely enjoyable. He selected some of us to attend District Chorus and Regional Chorus. Both were very enjoyable learning experiences. Among my very few friends from high school is a fellow chorus member—a long-time relationship that I truly appreciate.

One of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had occurred a few years ago when I worked at a large downtown church as Director of Communications. The St. Olaf College Choir from Minnesota came to Erie, PA, to perform and chose our church as the venue.

One of the many unique aspects of this most excellent choir is that the students hold hands as they sing. That may, at first, seem a bit unusual. But, I learned, when talking to two of the students who stayed in our home overnight, that the holding of hands gives their choir a unity of expression that is unparalleled in the choral field.

Imagine now, if you will, with all of the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual advantages of music, what it must have been like for the shepherds to hear a choir of angels. I am certain it became the single most important event in their lives. Notice how Dr. Luke describes it in Luke 2:11-14, as the angel of the Lord speaks to the shepherds:

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The glorious heavenly music filled the cool, clear nighttime sky over those hills above Bethlehem. The voices of the angels were at once mysterious and majestic, softly sweet and powerfully profound. The shepherds knew they had heard the same voices that gather around the throne of God to sing praises to the Creator of All.

I sincerely hope, during these days of Christmastide, the we will all have an opportunity to hear some music that will inspire us to follow the shepherds to the manger in Bethlehem. As we kneel at the feet of this Babe-become-King, let us allow the song of heaven to so fill our minds and hearts that praise will flow from our lips. It doesn’t matter if you can sing like a St. Olaf chorister. God delights in the praise of His people. (Psalm 149:4)

May the beauty of those angelic voices remind us that we belong to God through His Son, Jesus. We are the recipients of God’s richest blessings: His mercy, grace, and abiding love.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Glory All Around

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“And there were shepherds living out in
the fields nearby, keeping watch over
their flocks at night. An angel of the
Lord appeared to them, and the
glory of the Lord shone around
them, and they were terrified.”
—Luke 2:8-9

“You know,” the person in the next airplane seat said to me, “I might consider becoming a Christian if only God would give me some kind of sign.”

I smiled at his comment. But, inside myself I thought, Be careful what you ask for.

Throughout Scripture, we find a number of individuals who were looking for a sign. In most cases, they don’t receive the sign they are looking for because it is not a part of God’s plan. In some cases, they’ve already received all the evidence they need to take a leap of faith. And, still they want more. They want more information than God has already given them.

In contrast, the shepherds gathered with their flock on the hillside above Bethlehem were probably not looking for a sign when the event recorded in Luke 2:8-11 occurred:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Sometimes the ones looking for a sign do not immediately receive it. In other cases, those who did not at all seek a sign receive the very sign that pushes them in a new direction.

The Apostle Paul was one of this latter kind. He thought he was doing God’s work by persecuting the new Christians. Then, God met Paul on the road to Damascus and revealed the Lord Jesus to Paul in a startling way—a way that turned Paul’s world upside down.

As we begin a new day, instead of looking for some new sign, let’s look around us and consider if God has already given us all the information we need to have.

Hasn’t He shown us His mercy, love, and grace? Hasn’t He kept us safe as we go about our daily work? Hasn’t He blessed us in countless ways? Hasn’t He helped us through the trials of life that we all must face?

I think the answer if “Yes! Yes, He has!” So, let that be our sign.

But, let us also not be surprised that when we least expect it God might very well give us a sign that will turn our world in a totally new direction. Just like He did for those unsuspecting shepherds on that long-ago night.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 26, 2016

In the Shadow of the Cross

 

[Photo of a mander and a cross]


“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
—Isaiah 9:6

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Advent is over. Christmas has begun. But, for Christians devoted to following in the footsteps of our Savior, we remain ever mindful that the manger at Bethlehem always and ever exists under the shadow of the cross of Calvary. For Jesus came to earth, Incarnate God, in order to die in our place.

Upon considering the birth of Jesus, Samuel Longfellow—the brother of the celebrated poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—penned these words to a solemn hymn:

Beneath the shadow of the cross,
As earthly hopes remove,
His new commandment Jesus gives,
His blessed word of love.

O bond of union, strong and deep!
O bond of perfect peace!
Not even the lifted cross can harm,
If we but hold to this.

Then, Jesus, be thy spirit ours!
And swift our feet shall move
To deeds of pure self-sacrifice,
“And the sweet tasks of love.”

During Advent, we wait to celebrate Christ’s birth. Last night, at Christmas Eve services all across the globe, the last candle of the Advent Wreath was lit—the white candle, known as the “Christ candle.”

But, during Advent, we also wait to celebrate the return of Jesus, His second coming, that time when He will gather His own to Himself and banish Satan to eternal fire.

We continue to wait His return with eager expectation. His coming will not be a surprise because we wait for Him, long for Him, and anticipate His coming.

The surety of His return is unquestioned. For the prophecy of Isaiah was once fulfilled in a stable in Bethlehem. And so, the prophecy of Christ’s return will also be fulfilled in God’s time.

Our Savior was born, he lived, he died, and he rose again. Isaiah’s words were fulfilled, as written in Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

So, dear ones, this day we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Lord, and King. We do so by looking at a manger. But we recognize that falling upon that manger is the shadow of the cross. The cross upon which Jesus died for you and for me.

If you are reading this and you do not yet know this Jesus, I would remind you today of the words to a song written by Ira F. Stanphill and sung by many choirs and quartets over the years:

The cross upon which Jesus died,
Is a shelter in which we can hide;
And its grace so free is sufficient for me,
And deep is its fountain as wide as the sea

There’s room at the cross for you,
There’s room at the cross for me,
Tho millions have come, There’s still room for one
Yes, there’s room at the cross for you.

The hand of my Savior is strong,
And the love of my Savior is long;
Through sunshine or rain, through loss or in gain,
The blood flows from Calvary to cleanse every stain.

There’s room at the cross for you,
There'’s room at the cross for me,
Tho millions have come, There’s still room for one
Yes, there’s room at the cross for you.

Here’s one particular version of this song that I hope you will enjoy:

[Graphic of a play music arrow]


 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Time Has Come

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“While they (Mary and Joseph) were there,
the time came for the baby to be born…”
—Luke 2:6

Have you heard the expression: “Timing is everything!”? That phrase expresses the concept that for every event in our lives, timing plays a very important role.

When I first matriculated to Houghton College in the fall of 1965, I arrived on campus—like everyone else in my class—as a lowly freshman. While I was very familiar with the College, since it was only 75 minutes away from my home, since I had visited many times over the years, and since I had dated a woman, who was now a junior, for the two previous years, I still had no status whatsoever.

I gravitated to the college radio station, WJSL. In fact, my junior class “Big Brother” with whom I had corresponded over the summer was the elected manager of the station. So, when I walked in the door, my reputation as someone who had six years of previous experience in commercial radio had preceded me.

The first person I met was another junior at the college and the only other person on the college radio station staff who had previous commercial radio experience. Needless to say, he and I became friends and eventually did a radio program together called “Music ’til Midnight.”

Sitting in the daily Chapel Service, I began to notice that the auditorium was having problems with the sound system. All of a sudden, in the middle of the service, the system would go completely dead. The sound control booth was uniquely located in the very front of the auditorium, to the left of, and on a level above, the proscenium-less stage. Through the double glass, I could see people scurrying around inside.

Just as suddenly as the sound went off, it would come back on with a blast of feedback. Naturally, I wondered what was wrong. But, I was a lowly freshman and had no connection with anyone in authority to whom I might offer my services.

A couple of weeks later, I got a message to please see the Assistant Business Manager. I went to his office. He asked if I had experience with sound systems. I described some of the activities on which I had previously worked: the commercial radio station, chief engineer for the local theater company in my hometown, sound system work for my church and school. He asked me if I would take a look at the system in the Chapel to see if I could find out what was wrong with it.

So, I arranged to visit that control booth. Eventually, as I played some music through the system, it went dead. As I was poking around in the back of the several racks of audio gear, I suddenly stood up and hit my head on a little subassembly that had been attached to the side of the rack. With a blast of sound, the system came back to life.

I examined the subassembly and discovered a potentiometer (volume control) that someone had rigged up to control the level to the main audio feed for the system. It was full of dust. I used my handy spray can of cleaner to remove the dust. And, as if by a miracle, I “fixed” the problem. I later learned the College electricians had spent many hours trying to troubleshoot the problem that I fixed in about twenty minutes.

Was I some kind of genius? Of course not! I was just there at the right time and stumbled onto the cause of a long-standing problem.

You see, timing is everything. As a result, the Assistant Business Manager hired me to serve as Director of Auditorium Operations, a job I held for the rest of my years in college.

In the most minor and the most significant events in life, timing is everything. Mary and Joseph discovered this reality when they made the very long journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth in Galilee in order to register for the census and pay their taxes. Dr. Luke describes it this way in Luke 2:6-7:

While they (Mary and Joseph) were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

“When the time came…” or “In the fullness of time…” or “At the point where every plan God had put into place came together…” However one tries to express it, the fact remains that timing is everything. God caused the birth of His one and only Son, Jesus, to occur at just the moment He had chosen.

So it is in our lives.

As we begin another day, let us remember that the timing of the events in our lives does not occur based on happenstance. God has ordained every second of our lives. Because He loves us with His everlasting, unfailing, undying love, He will execute the timing for our life events in accordance with His perfect plan for us.

And that, dear ones, should give us a true sense of security, comfort, and peace.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Journey Begins

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a
decree that a census should be taken
of the entire Roman world. (This was the
first census that took place while Quirinius
was governor of Syria.) And everyone
went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town
of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to
Bethlehem the town of David, because
he belonged to the house and line of
David. He went there to register with
Mary, who was pledged to be married
to him and was expecting a child.”
—Luke 2:1-5

One of the most difficult concepts for believers in the life-transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ to fully grasp is the concept of the opening and closing of doors. Sometimes, we feel very secure in the pathway that we have chosen for our lives. Then, suddenly, a door closes and we find ourselves in strange territory.

I’ve explained earlier on this blog that in my formative years, I had several life pathways tugging at me for attention. As I moved through my teenage years those pathways narrowed to three possibilities: I could pursue a career in radio broadcasting; I could pursue a career in fire protection; or, I could pursue a calling to the Christian ministry.

As a senior in high school, I felt genuinely called to be a pastor and begin to actively move down that pathway. Then, I hit a roadblock during my freshman year in college. I was thrust into a ministry situation where I utterly and completely failed. I simply did not have the temperament nor sensibility that would be necessary to serve as a pastor. This became so starkly clear that I turned toward the two other pathways: radio broadcasting and fire protection.

Then, another door closed. The 1960s were definitely part of the age of the “thunder throat”—those deep-voiced announcers who could rattle the glassware in the cupboards if the volume control on the radio was turned up too high. While I was what broadcasters would call “a really good reader”—in other words, I could read news or advertising copy very well with lots of expression and clarity—I had a rather high tenor voice. In fact, during my first radio show when I was twelve years old, I was often mistaken for a female. It seemed that obtaining a radio job would be much harder because I did not possess “The Voice.” So, I turned to my last alternative, fire protection.

Through God’s mercy and grace, I had a wonderful career in fire protection that began in 1965 and ended with a door slammed shut in the summer of 2003 when my profound-progressive osteo arthritis of the knees, hips, and back made it impossible for me to climb stairs and move around sufficiently so that I could continue to travel and make visits to client’s facilities.

Forced to retire on disability, I was offered the opportunity to volunteer as the Director of Communications at a large downtown church. All of my investment in radio broadcasting, my college degree in Writing, my skills with audio systems, my managerial abilities, all came into focus in this new endeavor. I poured my heart into this new task. Then, a new pastor came and he wanted me out. I still do not know exactly why, but another door slammed shut.

God opened still another opportunity to work with my long-time friend, Dr. David R. Mains, and help him expand his opportunities and channels for ministry to pastors. And, that’s where I am to this day.

In each of these cases, God moved me from place to place according to His good pleasure. The slamming of doors was never a pleasant experience for me. I often felt hurt, disrespected, abused, emotionally harmed, very angry, and filled with disappointment. But, hindsight has always revealed a greater purpose in God’s actions that proved to be in my best interest.

When God wants to move one of His children from one place to another, He often uses external means to accomplish this movement. Such was the case with the birth of His one and only Son, Jesus.

The Prophet had foretold the birth of the Messiah would take place in the City of David, Bethlehem. But, Mary and Joseph lived far to the north in the Galilean town of Nazareth. How would God move these two precious children of His to the place where they needed to be, in order to fulfill the promise of Scripture? Let’s see how God did it, as recorded in Luke 2:1-5:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

(Note: to all Jews, Jerusalem was always “up”—so even though Joseph and Mary had to travel south, because Bethlehem was so close to Jerusalem, it was considered “up.”)

So God used the Roman government to call for a tax census that would require all Jewish occupants, and all other occupants, to return to the city of their family lineage, so that they might be counted and taxed to further pay for the immense building program going on in Rome.

As we begin this day, let us remember that God wants us where He wants us. He will do whatever is necessary to place us where He feels we need to be.

So, when doors slam in our faces, let’s ask ourselves whether this is simply an act of someone willfully desiring to harm us, or is God using this occurrence to move us to where He wants us to serve Him for the next portion of our journey.

God never makes mistakes. He always has our best interest at heart. That should greatly encourage us, as we faithfully and obediently follow whatever pathway He opens before us.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Friday, December 23, 2016

He Became Exactly What Was Predicted

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“And you, my child, will be called
a prophet of the Most High…”
—Luke 1:76a

When I was in early elementary school, there was a boy in my class who was unkempt, unruly, and generally an enormous challenge to the teachers. One day, I heard the teacher speaking quietly to another teacher. They did not realize I could hear them.

“That boy,” my teacher said, “will end up in prison or dead before he’s twenty years old.”

I was startled by that remark. I didn’t know very much about prisons, but I imagined them to be a very awful place. Even though the boy to whom she was referring did seem unusually annoying, it was hard for me to believe what she said about him.

But, sure enough, at age 17 that boy committed a triple homicide in another city and ended up in prison without parole for the rest of his life. He became exactly what was predicted.

In your life and in mine, I wonder if we have met the predictions that may have been made about us at an early age of our lives. I’m not at all certain I have an adequate way of judging that. But, when I read about the birth of John the Baptist, as we discussed yesterday, I am pleased to know that his father, Zechariah, spoke accurately about John when he prayed these words found in Luke 1:76-78:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

John the Baptist was the forerunner of his second cousin, Jesus. He is the one about whom another John, the Apostle John, wrote these words found in John 1:6-8:

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

It’s not at all surprising, given the circumstances of John the Baptist’s birth, that he had the hand of God upon him all the days of his life. He would even lose his life for the sake of the gospel. But, he truly became exactly what was predicted.

As we begin a new day, we should strive to be the people whom God has called us to be. He has plucked us as brands from the burning—to use John Wesley’s words. Before the foundation of the world, He has called us to belong to Himself. We are His dearly loved children.

Let us this day live as children of the Light. Let us truly become the people that God expects us to become. If we do, we will bring honor and glory and majesty to His precious and holy name.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

When You Receive
Good News, Praise God!

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel…”
—Luke 1:68a

What do you do when you get good news? Maybe you hear about someone you’ve been praying for who has received word that their body has been healed. Perhaps you had a great hope or desire in your heart and God has brought it to past. Maybe you received a promotion at work. It’s possible that someone you’ve loved for a very long time has either accepted your proposal of marriage or presented you with that proposal and you said, “Yes!”

Whatever good news that you’ve received, how did you react? Did you consider yourself “lucky” to have obtained whatever the good news indicated? Did you congratulate yourself that you have finally earned the recognition you deserved? Did you take a step back, catch your breath, and feel unworthy, hardly able to believe your good fortune?

Or did you do what the priest, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, did when his beautiful and long-awaited son was born to his wife Elizabeth—she who was considered barren had now given birth, just as an angel had promised.

Here’s the first part of Zechariah’s song of praise and thanksgiving to God. For you see, that’s how he celebrated this magnificent event in his life on the occasion of the birth of his son: he praised God. We find his prayer/song in Luke 1:68-75:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

We can learn from Zechariah. When we receive good news during this Season of Advent, and at any other time during the year, we can stop and praise God for His blessing poured into our lives. For God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

Let us begin this very day by thanking God for a new day of life. It is certainly true that every breath we take and every beat of our hearts is a precious gift from God. He truly loves us with His everlasting love.

Maybe you’ve stumbled upon this blog post today and you are someone who doesn’t believe in God. You think that all this Christian stuff is foolishness. Let me simply say to you that if you will seek God, you will surely find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

If you find God, you will find a treasure more precious than gold, more valuable than the most expensive diamond. You will find a life filled with peace and joy and blessing. Even in the midst of the darkest moments of your life, you will never be alone again. God will always be with you. He will always love you. He will always care for you.

I invite you to give Him a try. If you sense a tugging at your heart, that is the Holy Spirit. He wants to show you what God has already done for you. You see, there are no perfect people in God’s Kingdom—just sinners saved by His grace. And, you, my dear reader, can be one of them.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Actions of an Honorable Man

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“When Joseph woke up, he did what the
angel of the Lord had commanded him…”
—Matthew 1:24

Countless times during most people’s lives, they are faced with important decisions. They may have one or more options to choose. In some cases, any of the available options likely will have both upsides and downsides. The question always remains: which choice will that person make.

Imagine now that you are a grown man who has long watched a young Jewish girl in your village. She is a truly beautiful young woman. As is typical, she is somewhat younger than you are. You are struck by her beauty, grace, and charm. Whenever you see her, your heart beats a little faster. You feel very protective of her. Your love is not driven by a hormone-fueled lust, for you are a grown man with a grown man’s sensibilities and a grown man’s responsibilities.

You are convinced that not only would she be a very loving, caring, and faithful wife, she would also be a sweet, kind, nurturing mother to your children—the children that would bear your name and carry that name forward into another generation.

You follow all the appropriate Jewish customs. You speak with her father. You present evidence of your reliability and financial stability. You speak kindly to her and spend time with her, always in the presence of an appropriate chaperone. Eventually, you win her hand and she agrees to become engaged to be your wife.

You are the happiest man alive. At least, that’s how you feel. Your heart is so full of love for this wonderful young woman that you can hardly contain yourself. You look forward to your wedding day.

Then, lightning strikes. The Gospel of Matthew contains a description of that “lightning bolt” in Matthew 1:18-25:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Joseph of Nazareth discovers that his betrothed is pregnant. How could this be? Who could she possibly have surrendered to, lost her cherished virginity, and become pregnant?

Joseph’s heart began to turn to stone. But wait! An angel comes to Joseph in a dream and reveals that Mary has not surrendered her virginity. She is still a virgin. She is pregnant because the power of the Holy Spirit has overshadowed her. Now she is carrying a baby boy. And, that baby boy is the Savior of the World, God’s one and only Son.

Here again, as we saw illustrated in Mary’s behavior, as we considered it over the last few days, we see amazing obedience to the perfect will of God. Joseph surrenders his selfish human will and chooses to obey God.

He will bear the price of whatever shame may fall on him. And, he will be the man who nurtures this young boy into manhood. He will teach him carpentry. He will teach him the ways of the world. And, he will always look at his first-born son with great awe because he will know that he is looking at his Messiah, his Savior, his Lord.

In this new day, may the obedience of Joseph of Nazareth be our portion. May we be energized by Joseph’s example of obedience. And, may we experience the joy he felt, as he followed the pathway God had laid out before him.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Amazing Obedience

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“My soul glorifies the Lord and my
spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”
—Luke 1:46a

When I first began hanging out at my hometown radio station at age 12 back in 1959, I soon learned what it meant to have an employer/employee relationship. While there were one or two other key executives housed in the downtown newspaper office who had managerial responsibility for the radio station, one man truly was the boss, as far as the announcers were concerned.

William M. Winn wore several hats. He was clearly the on-site representative of management. His domain was a relatively small concrete block building at the edge of town, just a few dozen yards from the base of the transmitter’s antenna that broadcast the 1000 watt daytime/250 watt nightime signal of radio station WESB in Bradford, PA.

Bill Winn was Chief Engineer, holding the coveted First Class Radiotelephone License from the Federal Communications Commission. He was also the Program Director, News Director, and Sports Director. As you can see, Bill Winn was clearly in charge.

Bill ruled this radio kingdom with a very light-handed touch. He was fundamentally a very kind and patient man. I have since learned that many radio station engineers have a unique brand of patience. They must have this quality if they are to adequately maintain the complexity of the electronic equipment involved in transmitting radio signals.

At the same time, the announcers, and even the janitor for the radio station, knew that Bill was in charge. I never heard Bill raise his voice. I never heard him argue with anyone. But, I did observe him having more than a few heart-to-heart talks with announcers—gently persuading them to do the things he needed them to do.

For their part, the announcers responded very well to Bill’s style of leadership. But, at the same time, it was clear to them that it was always in their best interest to bend their will to his wishes. They learned—and I learned, too, at my relatively tender age—the importance of obedience.

Every few months, Bill would ask me to accompany him at night to the radio station. As soon as the announcer signed off for the night at a few minutes past midnight with the playing of the Doris Day version of the classic Isham Jones/Gus Kahn song “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” Bill would settle down to complete an audio “Proof of Performance” test on the station’s transmitter (sometimes known as an “Equipment Performance Measurement” or EPM). This was required by the FCC, but perhaps not as frequently as Bill wanted to run the test. I’m pretty certain he did the test more frequently in order to make certain the station was getting every bit of distortion-free audio signal out of the Gates transmitter that was possible to obtain.

My role, on these occasions, was to keep Bill company and to be present in case anything happened to him while he was working on the high voltage section of the transmitter. In a sense, I was there for safety purposes. Bill also let me help him with various tasks, which, in turn, helped me learn about the transmitter and how to maintain it.

Throughout this adventure, obedience was key. When Bill would tell me what he needed me to do, I had the responsibility of doing what he asked in exactly the way he asked me to do it. It was a very, very valuable lesson for me to learn as a teenager.

Another teenager who obviously learned a great deal about obedience in a very short order found herself in the strangest possible circumstances. We’ve been talking about her over the course of the last few blog posts. Her name was Mary. She lived in the little, dusty town of Nazareth.

You see, as we’ve already discussed previously, an angel of the Lord had appeared to her and told her that, even though she was a virgin, should would conceive a child by the power of the Holy Spirit, and give birth to a baby boy. This was no ordinary baby. He was the Son of God. She was to give him the name “Jesus.” He would redeem the people of the world from their sins. He was, in fact, the promised Messiah—or in the New Testament Greek language, the Christ—who had long been expected by the Jewish people.

Upon hearing this news, and a few months later, upon visiting her older cousin Elizabeth, who was also expecting a baby, Mary was moved by Elizabeth’s greeting to pray this prayer of obedience, as recorded in Luke 1:46-55:

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

As we begin this new day, may we have within the depths of our spirit that same devotion to serving God and following His pathway that this young Jewish virgin had. God rewarded her with the honor of bearing His one and only Son.

The beauty and glory of the Incarnation is embodied in the kind of obedience to God’s perfect will that Mary displayed on this singular and most holy occasion.

May our lives proclaim with fervor that same kind of obedience.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 19, 2016

You Have Found Favor

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,
Mary; you have found favor with God.”
—Luke 1:30

In my last blog post, we talked about what the young virgin Jewish girl must have felt when she was confronted by a heavenly angel. Because we’ve never seen an angel, we simply cannot imagine the sense of overwhelming power, yet supreme gentleness, these heavenly beings exude.

But, the message the angel proclaimed was even more miraculous. Dr. Luke records the angel’s words, no doubt recounted to him by the Apostle Peter who heard the account from Mary herself at some later point in her life, as found in Luke 1:30-33:

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Imagine this shocking news: “Though you are a virgin, you will have a son. You must call him Jesus. And, in fact, He is God’s Son and will be King over All.”

A startling revelation, to be sure. But, somehow—in some amazingly miraculous way—the instant the angel spoke these words, Mary knew they were true.

I believe, in that moment in time, a great sense of God’s Presence overwhelmed Mary. She would never be the same again. She became a willing vessel of God’s mercy, grace, and love. She set an example for all of us who would be called by God to belong to Him.

As we begin another day, let us remind ourselves that God has called us to be willing ambassadors to a needy world. Let us feel that same sense of awe that Mary felt. And, let us follow her example and yield ourselves to God’s direction and follow Him along the pathway that He opens before us.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Great Surprise

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you
who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”
—Luke 1:28

In the past week, across this nation and around the world, thousands of young women received the news that they were pregnant. Some greeted this news with exhilaration and overwhelming joy. Others became distraught and deeply troubled by the news. Still others received the news with a quiet resignation.

Among these thousands of women learning of their pregnancies some were not married. But, none of them—not one—was a virgin. In fact, to many people it is utterly inconceivable (no pun intended) that a virgin could have a baby. Yet, that is exactly what Dr. Luke records in Luke 1:26-28:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary had heard the good news that her much older cousin Elizabeth, who had long been barren, was going to have a baby. In fact, that news sped throughout the Jewish community, passing from family members to far away family members through a communications network that would boggle our minds today.

It was a cause for celebration. God had answered Elizabeth’s prayers. She and her husband, a priest named Zachariah from the priestly tribe of Levi, had wanted children. But, so far in their many years of marriage, they had been denied this particular blessing.

Now an angel of the Lord stood before Mary. There was no question this was a heavenly being. We do not know exactly what he looked like. Artists have tried to convey a sense of awe in their paintings of this event. Someday, we will all know what angels actually look like. But, whatever this angel looked like, he was a startling and awesome figure, but one who also exuded the very love and peace of God. And, that was a good thing, because the angel had some truly startling news for this young virgin of Nazareth.

The angel began with this singular phrase: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

What could this greeting possible mean? We will have to wait to the next blog post to see.

But, as we begin this day, surely we can agree that if an angel were ever to come to speak to us, this is exactly the kind of greeting we want to hear from the angel’s lips.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

An Unlikely Destination

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“When King Herod had called together all the
people’s chief priests and teachers of the law,
he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.”
—Matthew 2:4

Has anyone ever stopped you to ask for directions? Were you able to help them find their way? Did that act of kindness make you feel useful and good?

One would think that being asked for help would engender warm feelings of accomplishment. But, when the wise men came to King Herod to enquire where the King of the Jews might be born, Herod was furious.

He called the chief priests and teachers of the law together and asked them the question. He did so fully believing that they would report no such person could possibly exist. After all, **he** had been appointed by Rome to keep the Jewish citizens of the region under control. He had the title “king”—but he was merely a figurehead of the harsh Roman rule.

Imagine Herod’s surprise when the chief priests and teachers of the law came back with a location: Bethlehem. I can imagine Herod saying the name of that little town with a sneer.

Bethlehem was a small town just about five miles south of Jerusalem. It was a dusty little place. It was certainly not the kind of place where a king might be born. Herod must have felt disgust and a great deal of anger that anyone might take the place of him or his sons on the throne of this region.

Here’s the Apostle Matthew’s account, as found in Matthew 2:4-6:

When King Herod had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

If someone were to ask you today, “Where might I find this Jesus, King of the Jews?” How would you respond?

Would you tell him or her that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives in your heart, as well as occupying His rightful throne in heaven? Would you share the wonderful way that Jesus leads you along the pathway of life that He has opened up before you?

Would you explain how your sins, some of which you inherited from your parents all the way back to Adam, and some of which you have willfully committed yourself, have all been forgiven by the precious blood of Jesus—the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?

During this Season of Advent, much celebration swirls around us in our culture today. Yet, very little has to do with the real reason for this season of joy and delight.

As ones who love and follow Jesus, we need to gently and tenderly share what He has done for us whenever the Holy Spirit nudges us to do so. Our testimony of God’s mercy, grace, and love is our gift to others who cross our pathway during this special Season.

Throughout this new day, may we freely give this gift and tell others the direction—the way to find Jesus for themselves.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Adoption Granted

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“But when the set time had fully come, God
sent his Son, born of a woman, born under
the law, to redeem those under the law,
that we might receive adoption to sonship.”
—Galatians 4:4-5

As a child, my mother would often hold me on her lap and tell me the story of how she and my dad came to adopt me. She told me that she and my dad had wanted a child very much. After praying about this child for several years, they decided to see if they could find him. She told me that one of her good friends from our church had successfully gone on a search for a son and found one. This encouraged her and dad to do the same.

So, she told me they left their home and drove south for many miles. They finally came to a town where they learned that a baby boy had recently been born whose birth mother was unable to keep him. She and my dad gladly offered to take this boy home and raise him as their very own son. “And that, my sweet boy,” she would say, “is how you came to be our son. You see, we chose you. Out of all the boys we could have chosen, we chose you. That makes you very special and deeply loved.”

This sweet, sweet story marked my childhood. I always knew I was adopted. I also knew I had been chosen. When I was very young, I didn’t fully understand what that meant. But, I could certainly sense the warmth of love from my mom and dad.

It’s important that I share that story with you. Some people do not understand how important that word “adoption” is to all of us who follow Jesus. Even when we read the word in the Bible, we don’t always grasp how special we are.

The Apostle Paul tried to express this important concept to those in the church at Galatia when he wrote these words, as recorded in Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

The glory of the Season of Advent is wrapped in a cloak of God’s enduring love. He chose us before the foundation of the earth to belong to Him. By sending His one and only Son, Jesus, to die in our place on that cruel Roman cross of torture and death, God made the provision for our adoption as sons.

I’ve written many times that in the New Testament Greek language, the use of seemingly masculine terms does not at all match the shortsightedness of our current culture’s politically correct speech. Masculine sounding terms do not always indicate male gender. For example, in the passage above, the construction in New Testament Greek could easily be properly translated: “…to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to female sonship and male sonship.”

Our adoption as children of the Most High God is an absolutely marvelous truth of the Season of Advent. How blessed we are to belong to the God who loves us with His everlasting, unfailing, undying love. As we begin this day, let’s allow our souls to fill up with joy at this great adoption.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Birth of a Son

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“Therefore the Lord himself will give you
a sign: The virgin will conceive and give
birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
—Isaiah 7:14

I’ve recently mentioned that the entire Bible is devoted to a narrative that rises to or flows from the Incarnation. The hearts and minds of millions upon millions of believers continues to receive energy from the reality that God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son to pay the penalty for sin. (John 3:16)

The Prophet Isaiah, through the 66 chapters that make up the Old Testament book that bears his name, has continually pointed toward the Incarnation. For example, we find these words in Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

The virgin birth is an absolutely essential truth of the Incarnation. Through this miracle, Jesus retains His holiness as one of the three persons of the Godhead—fully God—and yet becomes fully human. We cannot overlook the importance of the virgin birth. Nor can we overlook the importance of the young virgin Jewish girl whom God chose to bear His Son.

We Protestants tend to shy away from acknowledging the role Mary played in this cosmic drama. We do so rooted in long ago reaction from the Reformation. Yet, Mary embodies obedience to God’s calling on her life. She sets an amazing example for all who follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

So, as we consider this miraculous time of year, let us not forget the extreme importance of the miracle of the Incarnation. Part of the joy of this season comes from the excitement surrounding the miracle of Jesus’ birth.

Let us bask in that joy and allow the excitement of the season to fill our hearts and minds, reminding us of this magnificent gift God has freely given to us—Immanuel, God with us.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Listen to Him

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“The Lord your God will raise up for you a
prophet like me from among you, from your
fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”
—Deuteronomy 18:15

Imagine if you had wandered in the desert for 40 years because of your disobedience toward your Great King. He had given you some specific instructions that were really quite simple. But, in your impatience and unbelief, you had cast aside what this King had told you to do. Your punishment was an aimless wandering until all the elders who had led you astray had died.

That’s the status of the people of Israel after they fled Egypt. In direct violation of the First Commandment they had made a golden calf which they could worship. If you plan to break the commandments of God, why not start with the first one, right? Oh! Foolish Israel! How long will you fail to listen?

Now the time was fast approaching to end this 40 years of punishment. Before he himself would die, Moses gathers the people of Israel together one more time to share with them a word from the God who loved them enough to demand their obedience. In so doing, Moses spoke one of the most potent sentences that would trickle down all through the sands of time, from that long-ago day to this very day. These critically important words are recorded in Deuteronomy 18:15:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.

Sometimes, when we encounter a verse like this, it is helpful to look at the context. So, here’s the whole passage from Deuteronomy 18:14-22:

The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.”

It’s true that, down through the sands of time, God has raised up prophets to speak His truth to His people. And then, in a stable at Bethlehem, the One True Prophet, Priest, and King was born—God’s one and only Son, Jesus the Christ.

As we consider to whom we should listen in a world filled with many conflicting voices, let us begin this day by listening to Jesus. His words are recorded in the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As followers of this Great King Jesus, we should read and re-read His words. We should feast on them, meditate on them, and put them into practice—this day and every day.

If we do that, we will begin to understand what it means to have the trustworthy Prophet on whose words we can rely. The Holy Spirit will give testimony with our spirit that these words of Jesus are true and that we should heed them.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Fruit Bearing Glory

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you
remain in me and I in you, you will bear
much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much
fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
—John 15:5, 8

The object of a fruit attached to the vine is to grow and develop because the vine provides needed nourishment. If the fruit becomes detached from the vine, the source of nourishment disappears.

That’s why Jesus instructed His disciples with these words found in John 15:5, 8:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Fruit bearing on the part of we who follow Jesus intends to bring glory to God the Father. As we serve Him as His ambassadors to a needy world, our development into healthy fruit possessing ever greater holiness brings glory to Him.

Let’s go out into the world this day, clinging to the vine and feeding on the nourishment God provides through His Word and through the guidance the Holy Spirit gives us. As we become ever more fruitful, we will bring glory to Him.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Only Through Jesus

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the
life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
—John 14:6

I have written on this blog several times over the years about the verse in this photo. It is one of the most formidable of Jesus’ many words of truth.

Jesus declares that He and He alone is the one and only way through which human beings may restore their relationship with the God who created them and who watched Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden forsake the one rule that He had given them for their own protection. Jesus is the only way.

Take note, once again of these words of Jesus from John 14:6:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

This declaration is offensive to those who follow every other religion on the face of the earth. It also offends many people who consider themselves Christians because of its exclusivity.

In a world where the word “inclusive” has taken on a value that exceeds all levels of reasonableness, for Jesus to declare that He is the one and only way to reconnect with God is abhorrent.

Nevertheless, that is exactly what Jesus said. In fact, in the New Testament Greek language, the rendering of this verse does indeed indicate that Jesus is the one and only way—the sole way—the one way without exception by which we can reconnect with the God who loves us with His everlasting love. I have no way to soften that claim, for it is the rock-solid foundation of Christianity.

There is also great comfort in knowing that Jesus is the one and only way to God. He is the One worthy of our worship, praise, adoration, and allegiance. So, when we begin a new day with our minds and hearts sold out to Him, we have made a very important and critically necessary choice.

Let us make our own declaration of Jesus’ claim without embarrassment or hesitation. We honor the certainty of His words. We follow in the footsteps of the One so bold as to acknowledge that He is the precious Son of God and the only way to the Father.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Do You Believe This?

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the
life. The one who believes in me will live, even
though they die; and whoever lives by believing
in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”
—John 11:25-26

In this season of Advent, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And, we wait expectantly and joyfully for the good news that Jesus has come back, as He promised He would. It is a time of quiet reflection and a time of exuberant joy and a time of hopeful waiting.

Fundamentally, Advent is also a time when we examine our relationship to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is ever more difficult to do this because we live in a world that has become increasingly confused about devotion to God and discipleship in following in His footsteps.

Our world wants to assert that all religions are essentially the same. Some insist that religion is just a panacea for the ignorant and unenlightened. It has no real substance, no real power, no true grasp of reality. Even those who may believe in a so-called “Supreme Being” do not view Him as a person with whom we humans may have a relationship.

Christianity counters such claims by asserting that the God we worship is the one true God. He has revealed Himself to us as a single being with three expressed persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No other religion describes its god in quite the same way. It is a common misconception, even among some Christians that the god of Islam, Allah, is really the same as our triune God. But, Islam does not recognize a triune God.

While Christianity expresses God’s overriding quality as “love,” other religions depict their god as a harsh, judgmental being waiting to primarily punish, and in some limited cases, reward those who ardently follow orders.

One of the reasons that the current crisis with those who practice an extremely fundamental form of Islam seems beyond our comprehension is that we cannot understand how these adherents are commanded by Allah to kill all unbelievers, conquer their land, and destroy every vestige of them from the face of the earth.

This is not the God we Christians worship and adore. Yes, He is a holy God, a fully righteous God. He has dealt harshly with those who have turned their back on Him. But, from the time He sent His Son to earth until this very day, at no point has He ordered His followers to do anything but demonstrate His mercy, love, and grace to a needy and dying world.

The claims of Christ are clear. Even Jesus Himself made it crystal clear when He made this important statement followed by a question, as recorded in John 11:25-26:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

To the world around us, we Christians must show forth God’s love and care. As we reveal the power of Christ within us to those who cross our pathway, we ultimately ask the question, “Do you believe this?”

Let us move out into this new day with the confidence that comes from knowing our God is the One True God and His most important qualities are His holiness and His love.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We Know and Are Known

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep
and my sheep know me—just as the
Father knows me and I know the Father—
and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
—John 10:14-15

Humorist and radio show host, Garrison Keillor, tells about traveling on a bus with his great aunt. In listening to him tell of this impressive jaunt for a small boy, the listener can tell that he really liked this lady. She had a good sense of humor and knew exactly how to handle a young boy who, even at his tender age, was quite a bit of a smart alec.

Keillor describes how, before boarding the bus, he suggested that, though they would sit together, they would pretend that they didn’t know each other. It was a game that, at first since it was his idea, Keillor entered into with enthusiasm.

He described how they boarded the bus, sat down, and pretended to ignore each other until the bus left the terminal. Then, Keillor inquired where this nice lady was from and where she was headed.

To his surprise, his aunt chose to respond very curtly to him, much as she might have responded to a complete stranger. Keillor tried several times to engage his aunt in conversation, but she kept to her role as someone he didn’t really know. Finally, in exasperation, Keillor said, “You do know me.”

“I don’t know you from a hill of beans,” Keillor’s aunt replied.

“Yes you do,” Keillor quickly responded.

“No, I don’t. And, if you don’t stop bothering me, I’m going to report you to the bus driver. So, just leave me alone.”

Keillor was floored. The game was fun for a while. Now the reality of this “we’re strangers” game had much more negative aspects to it than he had originally imagined. He began to whimper and through his tears declared, “Yes you do know me and I know you. We are known to each other.”

Every person on earth wants to know and be known. There is something about our God-given pre-wiring that makes us have a need for interpersonal contact with others.

If you doubt this, watch very small children in pre-school. It will never be long before the children begin to make contact with other children and form social groups. In fact, students of child psychology have written volumes about the socialization of young children as predictors of their behavior in later life.

We all want to know and be known. This makes Jesus’ words, as recorded in John 10:14-15, so very important to us:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

To know and to be known—and especially by the God who loves us—is a most powerful reality for those who have responded to the irresistible wooing of the Holy Spirit. We can feel such a sense of wonder and amazement that God longs for a relationship with us.

He wants to fellowship with us. He wants to pour out His love and affection for us in such a strong measure that we cannot begin to comprehend the enormity of that love.

As we celebrate both the first and second coming of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, let us allow His words of love to penetrate into the very core of our being: “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

We know and are known. On this new day, what a comfort, what an amazement, what a blessing this is to us.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Please Enter

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”
—John 10:9

One of the great joys of Advent is the recognition that Jesus not only came to earth and will come again, He welcomes those who believe in Him to enter through the gate that He provides. This should produce great joy in all whom God has drawn irresistibly to Himself.

If someone offered you a great mansion inside the protective walls of an enormous kingdom, would you accept? It requires absolutely nothing on your part. Your entrance fee has been paid by the son of the owner of this vast kingdom. Your only responsibility is to take advantage of this offer and enter in through the gate provided.

Jesus is the Son who provides this entrance-fee-free welcome. Notice what He said, as recorded in Joh 10:7, 9-10:

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

This day, if you have not already entered the gate, but feel yourself drawn to it, please enter. You will find such a glorious welcome that you will not believe why you waited so long to join the celebration.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Never Walk in Darkness

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“I am the light of the world.”
—John 8:12

More big toes become injured when people try to walk across a dark room. Have you ever stubbed your toe while wandering half asleep to the bathroom at 3:00 a.m.? It’s not a pleasant experience.

Years ago, one particular friend phoned me to report just such an injury during the previous night. After bemoaning the injury, my friend punctuated the conversation by saying, “And, it was a piggy toe!” No one wants to walk in the darkness.

In our spiritual lives, we need a well-lighted, clear path if we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Fortunately, our Lord recognized this when He shared these words recorded in John 8:12:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus supplies the light. And, His light is constant in intensity and coverage. He fully lights the pathway with a bright, sure light. His light never goes out. He is faithful and consistent.

As we begin a new day, we can recognize with joy that as followers of Jesus we will never have to walk in darkness. Jesus is our light. We will never stumble along our pathway because we could not see the way to walk.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Never Hungry

 

[Photo of a Scripture verse]


“I am the bread of life. Whoever
comes to me will never go hungry…”
—John 6:35

How soon after you eat do you begin to feel hungry? What’s that? In an hour or so? How about ten minutes? I’m told that the more often you have to go without food, the hungrier you become. Our bodies never get used to being hungry.

Years ago, I visited a Rescue Mission in a major U.S. city. I was there in order to help the organization with some issues relating to the development of a database to better serve their clients. I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about the days when I provided consulting services in a particular, and now obsolete, database software called dBase II.

Over the serving line in the cafeteria that provided food three times a day for upwards of 250 people was a verse from John 6:35:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

At first I thought it was a bit ironic to have such a verse in the cafeteria of a Rescue Mission. But, the more I thought about it, the more appropriate it seemed.

In spite of all the problems the clients of this Rescue Mission may have had, the number one, most important need they had in their lives was to learn about the One who loves them with His everlasting and unfailing love. As the source of spiritual sustenance in their lives, Jesus would never leave them hungry or thirsty. He, and he alone, would always satisfy their spiritual hunger.

We often use this verse when we serve the first element in Holy Communion. We, the members of the Body of Christ, feast on the representation of the body of Christ. (Or, if your church believes in transubstantiation, the actual body of Christ.) But, in an even greater sense, Jesus feeds us every time we read the Bible and pray, every time we allow the Holy Spirit to guide the direction of our lives, and every time we gather with other believers for precious fellowship.

Jesus is the “Bread that always satisfies.” And, as we begin another day, we can feast on Him. We can find our nourishment in Christ. We can more and more grow because of His sustaining grace.

So many people have a longing in their hearts. They may not have any idea what it is that they feel. But, that longing persists until the Holy Spirit opens their minds and hearts to the message of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.

As a teenager, I had the great privilege of attending several concerts by Thurlow Spurr and the Spurrlows. In fact, I spent a very instructive weekend picking the brain of their chief sound engineer, David Steensland, during a Youth Weekend Retreat at Camp Findley, Findley Lake, NY, in the middle 1960s.

One of the Spurlows signature songs, written by Thurlow Spurr, spoke directly to the longing that people have until they meet Jesus. I invite you to listen to this song.

Here’s an appropriate musical reminder that I hope you will enjoy:

[Graphic of a play music arrow]


 

Copyright © 2016 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.