We Are One

Read Galatians 3:26-29

There are times in the world when we are reminded about the importance of solidarity. During my lifetime I can name some specific times when national and world solidarity has shone forth. When I was still living at home, I experienced this when there was a profound famine in Africa and the farm economy crisis. As an adult, I witnessed this global unity with AIDS killing thousands, the events of 9/11/2001, and now the Ukrainian crisis. These are times when we realize how much we have in common and the power found in unity to make a meaningful, positive difference. We come to realize that in God we are one.

Here is an updated version of a song which came as a response to the African hunger crisis.

Master’s Touch

Read Luke 15:3-10

People come in and out of our lives regularly. There are some who make a significant impact while others quickly fade from our memory. Some individuals are a part of our lives for a long span of time, but some only interact with us briefly. There are the standouts and the unnoticed. We may view a person as having great value to us and another is seen as contributing little to our lives. The world teaches us how to value another human. We are also taught how we are, or are not, valued by others.

Unlike humans, the Lord places a high value on each one of us. Our value, and the value we have with others, is not dependent upon us. To the world we may look used up and have nothing to contribute. Yet it is the Lord who gives value to each person. By touching our lives, God makes us into the great masterpiece which we were created to be. The touch of  the Lord transforms us from a broken, sinful person into a radiant child of the King. Whether our contribution to the world is brief or long, whether we are noticed or remain unnoticed, by God’s amazing power, we are a shining star of humanity.

Wayne Watson sings of this truth in a song, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” written by John Kramp based upon a poem by Myrna Brooks Welch. Enjoy listening to this song as you realize that you, and every person you encounter, are a masterpiece of great value when the Lord touches and beautifully plays your life.

Hand In Hand

There are times in life when one event, one action, or one experience can change the course of a person’s life. A change in perspective might occur. Priorities may be drastically altered. Decisions might be made in a changed understanding of what is important. Gene MacLellan thought that if a person simply placed their hand in the hand of Jesus, the course of their life would be deeply impacted. As you listen to the song which McLellan wrote, consider these questions:

1. Is your hand securely in the hand of Jesus or have you chosen to let go? (Jesus never lets go.)

2. When your hand is in the Lord’s, how do you see yourself; how do you see others?

3. Are you letting Jesus lead you by the hand or are you pulling back?

Never Alone

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20b, NIV)

We never know when our situation in life will suddenly change. A car accident may occur and our life is altered in countless ways. Our routine check up at our doctor’s office may result in the discovery of an illness which will require us to battle immensely. We may be asked into our supervisor’s office to discover that our position is being eliminated. An alarm awakens us in the night and after exiting our home, we watch firefighters work hard to save the house but the wind fuels the flames. All of these life-changing experiences, and more of greater and lesser magnitude, create a time of storm in our lives.

In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel, a song which became a hit on its own was, You’ll Never Walk Alone. In the musical the song is sung twice. The first time is when the male lead, Billy Bigelow, dies and the female lead, Julie Jordan, sings it to comfort herself and cousin Nettie finishes it for her. The next time we experience the singing of the song is at the graduation of Billy and Julie’s daughter as the spirit of Billy encourages his daughter and Julie.

This song reminds us of Jesus’s words at the end of Matthew’s gospel. The resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples, commissions them, and then tells  them he is always with them. These encouraging words have great value for us when we are facing life’s storms. The storm will not last forever. There is light at the end of the storm. We keep hope in our hearts for we have the promise that Jesus always walks through the storm with us.

So Good

There are times in a person’s life when memories from our childhood can come flooding back into the mind. Certain experiences or events can trigger those memories. Recently, some events in my life created one of those instances. I was reflecting upon how certain situations fell into place. I had a need for the Lord to intercede in my life and the lives of some individuals who I deeply love. Naturally, this prompted me to engage in a sustained period of frequent and diligent prayer. I turned to family and trusted prayer warriors in my life. While I firmly believe that the Lord always works faithfully in the lives of God’s children, I could have never foreseen the great show of faithfulness which I recently experienced. This led me to remember a song from my childhood.

Growing up in a small, rural community, I had the blessing of being nurtured into the Christian faith by loving people in a small church. Every Sunday morning, children, youth, teachers and the pastor would gather in a basement room for the Sunday School opening. We would sing songs, hear a passage from Scripture, and say a prayer before splitting into our classes by age. One song which we sang frequently is, God is So Good. I would also later sing this song at church camp.

As I considered the Lord’s recent guidance and blessings in my life, the words of this song flooded my mind.

God truly is good and has been extremely good to me. I love God so!

The Big House

Read John 14:1-3

There are many varieties of houses in this world. Some people live in small, one-room homes while others have places to live which have over twenty rooms. The materials used to build houses may depend on factors  such as location, climate, resource availability, financial resources, and/or the owner’s needs. Some houses are single-storied, while others have two or more stories. Just as individuals vary, so do the houses in which each person lives.

In an attempt to reduce the anxiety of his disciples, Jesus tells them about a house with plenty of room which he is going to prepare for them and others. Prior to this passage, Jesus had told his disciples that he would not be with them much longer. After having followed Jesus around for almost three years, the disciples want to follow him wherever he is going next. They are afraid of being left on their own. So Jesus assured them that he is going to prepare their place where the Father dwells. He also tells them that there is plenty of room for them and he will return to take them to the place.

During Advent, part of our focus was on this promise of Jesus’s return. In today’s passage we hear of this promised return. The promise speaks of a big house where all are welcomed. Through other passages in Scripture, we gain an understanding that there will be abundance at this place. Sadness, pain, and suffering will be replaced with joy and uninhibited life. The place of Jesus’s promise is clearly a place we all would desire to experience. This place is also a home to which we should want to invite others.

Audio Adrenaline captured the promise of Jesus and created images to which we can relate today in their song, Big House. I invite you to consider the promise, the invitation, and the images which form in your mind as you listen to this song today.

Christmas Eve

Tonight we take time to recall the incarnation of God in a small Israeli town called Bethlehem. We will probably recite or hear the recitation of the events surrounding a nightly birth of our Savior. The story involves a young couple, a humble setting, some shepherds, an angel, a multitude of angels, and a baby. We also consider how this same Savior enters our own life. Another consideration which should come into our minds is the planning for the event of the Savior entering our world again in a much different way.

The song which I am sharing with you this Christmas Eve is from the artist Hannah Kerr. In the song, Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, she asks us to enter into the lives of some of the key players in the incarnation story. Would we act and respond the same way that Scripture records they did? She then reminds us that we will experience another arrival of the Savior and the lyrics prompt us to ponder our responses.

Listen to this song and consider.

Joseph

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Many times as we share the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, one character is barely mentioned or overlooked entirely. Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father, is that person. Even the gospel writers make little mention of Joseph. He is only included at the time of the birth. His presence is inferred in Luke 2:41ff when his “parents” are mentioned as the boy Jesus is found in the temple. So we are left to imagine what it must have been like to be the father of the Savior.

Michael McLean attempts to place us in the shoes of Joseph in his song, I Was Not His Father, He Was Mine. Consider Joseph as you listen to this beautiful song. How would you view your situation if you were Joseph? What perspective is provided in the lyrics?

Any Room

During the holidays, people travel a lot and stay in all types of places. Some opt to stay with family. Others choose hotels and motels for accomodations. A few may decide to stay at a bed and breakfast or maybe rent a cabin. On the other side of the equation are the hosts, hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and cabin owners. These all must decide if they have available room for guests.

A key component of the story of Jesus’s birth involves travel and accomodations. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem in response to a decree by the Roman Emperor. When they arrive, they search the city for a place to stay. The question which Joseph probably asked again and again was, “Do you have room for us?” This is a question which the Lord asks each of us still today. “Do you have room for me?” Ponder your response as you listen to Casting Crowns sing Make Room.

What Do You Know

Read Luke 1:35-38

There is not a person on earth who can predict the future. We have no idea what is going to happen in the next thirty seconds, let alone a day, a month, a year, or ten years from now. We may have insights into possibilities and probabilities based on observations and patterns. But these predictions are not absolute and often lack some level of accurate detail. This is why many become frustrated with meteorologists because their weather predictions have a limited  level of accuracy.

So the song which I am sharing with you today is based on a question which is unfair to Mary. Mary’s announcement from the angel was alarming and unpredictable. How could Mary  ever know who and what Jesus would become? Even if she connected her child to the ancient prophecies, she could not know the details or timing. This song shares what we, on the other side of Jesus’s story, know happened. We know who Mary’s child is and what he has done.

As you listen to Mark Lowry’s version of the gospel, consider what you know about Mary’s child. How do you tell others what you know?