Tag Archives: Advent

When Angels Speak We Need to Listen

Do you know how many people were at the birth of Jesus? Two. It’s really shocking if you think about it.  In Luke’s account of the birth, the only one present at the birth of Jesus, besides Mary, was her husband, Joseph (see Luke 2:6,7).

Angels Heard On High

advent

Angels Call the Shepherds

I think that’s why the very next thing Luke mentions is that a “host” of angels appeared to a group of shepherds.  A “host” equals a thousand. It was like, HEY, Somebody!  Anybody!  You’ve gotta see this!  This is truly EPIC. It can’t go unnoticed.

The heavenly host must have been in shock that the Savior could enter the world and no one paid attention.

Maybe God is trying to show us something in this. What it tells me is that we don’t always understand what God is doing. We easily get led astray by the smaller things in life and lose sight of God.

What Angels Know That We Don’t

The contrast between humans and angels is interesting.  People were absent at Jesus’ birth but angels were everywhere throughout the Christmas story.  Clearly, they knew something that the population at large didn’t know. The heavens were alive with excitement.  In fact, there is more angelic activity surrounding the birth of Jesus than any other event in the Bible.

Read the story and you’ll find angels tell much of the story.  There are four appearances of angels who come to tell people what God is about to do. It’s like God pulls back the curtain of heaven for just a few moments and we get special insight into what only God and the angels know. They are thrilled, but something got lost in translation because earth doesn’t do a great job of receiving their king. Maybe no one could fully believe what the angel’s story.

Is It Worth Missing an Encounter With God?

I wonder what people were doing that night; watching the new movies that just got released. Attending the office party. Maybe they were doing some last-minute Christmas shopping or drowning their sorrows in a bar. I don’t know.  Whatever they were doing…if they had it to do over again…I bet they’d want to be with Mary and Joseph and Jesus.

The Christmas story is a great reminder of how easy it is to miss out on what God is doing. It’s so easy to get preoccupied with the drama of life and forget about God. We need an angel or a friend or a pastor to remind us of what’s important.

I like what Luke says about the impact that seeing Jesus had on the shepherds.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:16-20

That one encounter with Jesus made their day and may have changed their lives. And that’s my prayer for you: that this reminder will cause you to turn to Jesus and that encounter might change your life.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

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The Weakness of God and Newtown, Connecticut

In the wake of the Newtown, CT massacre, people are asking an obvious question: Where was God? Christians talk about an all loving, all-powerful God. So where was he?  Doesn’t something like this undermine the Christian message? How can you believe in God when he doesn’t show up? This continues my meditation on the weakness of God.weakness of god

People have asked these questions for centuries. They’re fair questions.  If God exists and God is all-powerful, then logic tells us that bad things shouldn’t happen, right?

The weakness of God

When God doesn’t show up in the way we want him to, that’s what I call the weakness of God. Is God weak? No. But if we are honest, that’s how we feel.

This is what we need to know: God often comes in what seems like weakness. But he never ends in weakness. He comes in humility, but ends in greatness.

The value of weakness

The apostle Paul makes a radical statement in the Bible: “…power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Power is somehow brought to its full expression in weakness. This seems contradictory. It doesn’t make sense. What does power have to do with weakness? But Paul came to appreciate weakness. He wasn’t ashamed of it. It didn’t embarrass him.  In fact he said…

Most gladly… I will …boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9,10

Paul had his share of trouble: persecution, shipwrecks, prison, left for dead. But he didn’t accuse God of abandoning him or of being weak. He came to appreciate that weakness provided an opportunity for God to show up in his life in unique ways. Maybe not the ways he always wanted, but present nonetheless.

Disillusioned with God

Many people turn to God because they are promised that God will solve all their problems.  These people tend to be the ones that are offended when God doesn’t “show up.”  No one ever told them that God allows suffering so they feel like the victim of “bait and switch”…they came to God thinking that God was a problem solver and now they are disillusioned. That is also why – when they read about 27 people being shot – they don’t have a theology that allows for that.

God with us

But the Bible doesn’t promise that God will only come in strength. Think about the first Christmas. It’s not a pretty story. There is oppression, poverty, and the slaughter of innocent children. When Jesus showed up, he didn’t solve any of that. He came in weakness: just a child.  The Christmas story doesn’t tell us that God rescues us from problems. It tells us that God is with us in our problems.

Overcoming evil

Last Friday, evil shocked us. But let’s not run from it or accuse God of being weak. Let’s look to God to reveal himself in our suffering. God is a master at making good out of evil. The resurrection is the obvious example.  Some people probably accused God of abandoning them the day after Jesus was crucified. But their doubt and questions were answered on Sunday.

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The weakness of god and women

I’m continuing my meditations on the weakness of God. Today I’m looking at the the weakness of god“weakness” of women.

Matthew introduces Jesus to his readers by doing a very Jewish thing, he recounts Jesus’ genealogy.

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah… Matthew 1:1-3

The Dark Side of Jesus’ Family Tree

Most people skip over this section. It’s like, blah, blah, blah, yada yada yada. Who cares? But if you look at the full list you’ll find some interesting names. First, there are some evil people in Jesus’ family tree: Ahaz and Manasseh. They were the most ungodly, ruthless, evil kings ever.

Where Did These Women Come From?

But there are four other names that are stand-outs, if you keep reading through the list. This genealogy lists the men in Jesus’ family tree on his father’s side.  But surprisingly, Matthew mentions the name of four women: Tamar, Ruth, Rahab and, “Uriah’s wife” which is Bathsheba.

Why would Matthew mention these women in a list of men? The reason I ask is because women in ancient times were seen as weak. In some cases it was worse than that. Women were seen as worthless. I think Matthew mentions these women because he spent three years following Jesus, watching Jesus interact with women, valuing women by listening to them, and including them.

Women in the Ministry of Jesus

Jesus turned common knowledge upside down and valued the weakest people in that culture. In fact, if you keep reading in Matthew or Luke, it’s women who dominate the Christmas story. The birth of Jesus focuses on Mary and Elizabeth and even a prophetess by the name of Anna.

Keep reading about the ministry of Jesus, and again he’s surrounded by women. At his death it’s women who are there with him. And when he is resurrected it is women who are entrusted with telling the good news to others.  Throughout history, women have filled churches more often than men. Why? Because, while the world often treats women as weak or worthless, Jesus treated women with dignity and full equality to men. He wasn’t afraid to associate with the “weakness” of women.

The Scandal of Associating with Weakness

The four women in Jesus’ genealogy all had a fairly scandalous story:

  • Tamar: She tricked her father-in-law into having sex with him so she could have a child.
  • Ruth: was from Moab, a nation that came from Moab who was the product of incest.
  • Rahab: was a Canaanite prostitute.
  • Bathsheba: committed adultery with King David.

You thought your family was messy. You’ve got nothing on Jesus. But this is how Jesus and we are different. Jesus wasn’t afraid to claim the dark side of his family tree.  He wears these weaknesses like a badge of honor…not because of the sin involved in each story but because of what God did through these women in spite of their sin.

Is it Weakness or An Opportunity for God?

Jesus looks at you the same way. There’s nothing you’ve done that will make Jesus turn his back on you. What you call weakness, Jesus calls opportunity.

Jesus redefines weakness.  In Christ there is no weakness. That’s a social construct that we’ve created. That’s a term, or a concept, that we’ve coined based on comparing ourselves to others. For God… weakness is a stage for him to reveal his greatness. It’s a launching pad for God to do something special.

Redefining the Weakness of God

The weakness of God doesn’t mean that God is inept: unable to accomplish something. The weakness of God means that God comes in unexpected ways…in ways that humans often call weak. That’s why we have to be so careful to see what God is doing and not discount the weak thing.

the weakness of god

Ready for Purchase on 12.18.12

Question: How does it feel to know that Jesus claims you in spite of your weakness? 

My new book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships, is now available on Amazon.com. Look for a special offer rolling out tomorrow on Facebook, or Tuesday morning in this blog.

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the weakness of god: facing our disappointment

This is a continuation of my meditation on the weakness of God.

What’s the top-selling movie of 2012? The Avengers. The Avengers is a story of how six comic book action figures save the world from evil: Iron Man, Captain America, The Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, and the Incredible Hulk. the weakness of god

Over Thanksgiving my family watched it together. We got the movie because a friend of a friend of one of my kids said it was a “must see” movie. Not so sure about that!

But if I had to guess what people like about The Avengers, and other super hero movies: it’s the fascination with power. These movies fulfill our fantasy of always having the power to overcome obstacles. I think the Iron Man character is especially attractive because he doesn’t have any super power of his own. He’s as weak as the next guy but his Iron Man suit gives him the power…and who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want to be able to push a button and have their greatest weakness turn into strength?

the weakness of god

I mention this because this month I’m talking about the opposite of this kind of strength. I’m talking about weakness, specifically: the weakness of God. That’s not something we typically like to talk about. We like to talk about heroes. We like to talk about overcoming weakness. We turn to God because we’re weak and he’s strong.

But oddly, God often reveals himself to us in weakness.

The best example is Jesus coming into the world as a baby. But not just a baby: a baby born into poverty to a girl in a stable. Who comes to visit him but shepherds? The lowest class people.

That might all seem quaint to us today. We like manger scenes and grade school programs with Mary and baby Jesus. We like to sing carols about the silent night and the three wise men. But in the eyes of the world at the time, the scene must have been fairly pathetic, not to mention smelly. I mean, are you kidding? What kind of god would enter the world this way? Come on…go get a better story!

Finding the good in weakness.

I have to think that, if God chose to enter the world in weakness then there must be more to weakness than we realize. There must be something that is even good about weakness if we are open to it. And so I’m taking this month to look at this idea of the weakness of god.

The weakness of God is offensive.

The reason this is so important is that God continues to show up in weakness today. For every great story of God showing up in an amazing way for someone… there are probably a number of people saying…that’s not true for me. When I prayed, nothing happened. When I prayed for my marriage, we got divorced. When I prayed for healing, I got worse. When I prayed for my finances, I had to declare bankruptcy. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s embarrassing. It’s offensive. It even causes some people to turn away from God.

Strength comforts us. But weakness scares us. We don’t know what to do with weakness. We don’t know what category to put it in. It’s easier to just smile when others share their success story and not mention the pain of God NOT showing up for you.

Finding God in weakness.

But what I want us to see is that God is not only in strength, God is in weakness too. Just because you don’t see him in weakness, doesn’t mean he’s not there. He is there when the divorce happens, or in the failed healing, or the bankruptcy. He may not show up in the way you wanted, but he’s there. You just need to develop eyes to see him.

Question: Have you seen God show up in “weakness”, that is, unexpected ways? Ways that weren’t overwhelming powerful but yet profound? Please let me know about it by leaving a comment. Thanks.

Get ready for STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships. Releasing on December 18th at Amazon.com. I will send you a free PDF pre-release copy of the book in exchange for your review of it on Amazon.com. Click on the email icon in the margin to contact me for your free copy.

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The weakness of god Moves You to Help the Weak

I’m taking this Advent season to reflect on the weakness of God. By the weakness of God I mean the less than powerful ways God often chooses to reveal himself: a baby in a manger or dying on a cross.weakness of god

The weakness of God moves us to help the weak.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned that meditating on the weakness of God first produces an offense. We don’t like the idea of God being weak. We spend our lives running away from weakness. It’s embarrassing. What we like about God is that he’s strong.

But if we can push past that offense we find ourselves hearing God’s voice in new ways, which in turn produces a new sense of humility. We are not so ashamed to admit our own weaknesses when we realize that God often chooses to make himself present in the midst of our weaknesses.

Mediating on the weakness of God moves you to hear the weak.

This leads me to my next thought: when you meditate on the weakness of God you begin to hear the voice of the weak. Most of us are trained to just hear the voice of the powerful, the successful, or the beautiful. But when you are no longer offended by weakness and able to walk in humility, you start to hear the voice of the weak, the dismissed, the poor, the forgotten, and the marginalized. Humility trains your ears to hear new voices.

Hearing these voices is a defining moment. Some people stop their ears. They don’t want to hear these voices. It’s too painful to know that there are so many hurting people. But many people are moved to do more than hear the weak.

Meditating on the weakness of God moves you to help the weak.

Once you start to hear the voice of the weak it won’t be long before you want to help the weak. You don’t have to join a cause or save the world. Maybe you just send a card to the person divorced last summer when you realize that this is their first Christmas alone. It can be that easy.

I hope that happens for you this Christmas season. Might Christmas be a time of hearing and helping the weak and not merely adding pounds to your waistline and presents to your closet.

Question: I’m curious what voices you have come to hear over the past few years that you never heard before. Has it moved you to help them? Please leave a comment below. Thanks.

STUCK: I originally asked for ten people to review my new book. I got many more than that and I sent them all a free PDF copy in exchange for a review on Amazon.com. I will send it to you too, as well as a free Kindle version once you post a review. Just email me.

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The weakness of god births Humility

I’m taking the month of December to reflect on the “weakness” of God.  It will take me the month to flesh out this theme so bear with me. Don’t be too quick to judge what I’m saying. This idea unfolds like a flower.weakness of god

I mentioned in my last post that our first reaction to the concept of the weakness of God is to be offended.  We don’t even like the phrase “weakness of God” and certainly don’t like to see God spelled with a small “g”.  Yet God never seemed to mind revealing himself in situations that we call weak, i.e. born in a manger, died on a cross, to name two.

Meditating on the weakness of god helps us to listen.

If you know that God might reveal himself in subtle ways and not just bold ways, then suddenly your listening gets better, doesn’t it? You aren’t so quick to dismiss a thought or a word that comes to you. You aren’t so quick to discount your boss, or spouse, or children, or even an enemy. When you understand the weakness of God you realize that God can speak through anyone.

Meditating on the weakness of god helps us to be humble.

If God reveals himself in weakness then maybe being weak isn’t so bad. Maybe I don’t have to hide my weakness. I can embrace it: even admit it.

I was counseling someone recently who suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). He wondered if I knew much about it. I told him I didn’t but there are certain standard steps to take that hold true for solving most of our problems. I suggested many ways to seek help but then I told him that if he wants freedom from a problem it helps to tell people about it and not hide it. The Bible tells us to “confess our sins one to another that we might be healed.”

Three things happen when you tell people your problem:

  1. you stop having a secret, which takes the monkey off your back. It’s a huge relief.
  2. you find out that there are many other people out there with the same struggle.  You have to be careful whom you share your problem with but the right person will typically be quick to say that they too struggle with your problem or a similar one. You are not alone.
  3. people can now help you. When you hold your problem in isolation it’s all yours. When you tell someone else you now have help: a counselor to inform you, or comfort you, or hold you accountable.

But sharing your problem takes humility and courage. Where do you find that? When you start to realize that God often reveals himself in what WE call weakness, it takes the shame away.  You start to realize that what we call weakness, God simply calls humanity. WE are offended by our humanity but God’s not offended. He breathes life into humanity, changing us into his likeness.

Advent Challenge: try not to judge yourself as weak or strong. No one stood around the manger lamenting that Jesus was just a baby. That baby was the birth of a new beginning. In the same way, your “weakness” is the birthplace for God to show up.

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The weakness of god is offensive

I began an Advent meditation last week on the weakness of god and continue it today.

Meditating on the weakness of God can change you. But before it changes you it often offends you.  Like I said before, we rather talk about strength than weakness.

weakness of God

the weakness of god

Weakness is offensive. Even the fact that I wrote the title to this series in all lower case letters offends people. It offends me too. I don’t like to see the word “God” in lower case. I don’t like weakness attributed to God in any way, even a lower case letter. But I did that to make a point about how much we dislike the association of God and weakness.

Weakness is offensive

Weakness is embarrassing. It’s offensive. I mentioned last week how the sale of testosterone supplements is skyrocketing. Why? Men hate to feel the weakness that creeps in when they age.

But it’s not just aging men who have this problem. We all hate weakness. We all have things that embarrass us about our lives. We are ashamed of our body, our looks, our emotions. We’re ashamed of our health, our relational failures, and our finances. We are ashamed of the car we drive, the house we live in. I mean, the last thing we want is someone to drop by our house.

We’re ashamed of our age. We’re ashamed of our career, or lack of one. We’re ashamed that we aren’t more spiritual. We are ashamed of our sin and what tempts us.

The weakness of god is offensive

Do you see what I’m saying here? Weakness offends us in our own lives and it offends us in the life of God. If we could eliminate weakness from our lives we’d do it in a heartbeat. So as we take this month to look at the weakness of God, expect to be offended. We don’t like to think about it. But you won’t be able to escape it if you keep reading my posts.

Even though we shrink from the thought of the weakness of God, God is not afraid to reveal himself in weakness. Listen to how the Bible describes God’s messiah…and the reaction of people to him:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Isaiah 53:2,3

People were offended at the messiah. He wasn’t what they wanted him to be.  But when the weakness of God offends you it causes you to miss the presence of God. That’s why only a few people gathered in the stable at the birth of Jesus. And that’s why only a few gathered at the foot of his cross at his death.

If you can move past the offense of the weakness of God you will find a treasure of insight. I hope you’ll join me as I continue these meditations throughout this Advent season.

Question: What weakness, either in yourself or in God, offends you? Leave your comment below. Thanks in advance for sharing.

Look for the release of my new book: STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships later this month. I’ll send you a free 50 page sampler when you subscribe to this blog.

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