An angel appears to Mary and communicates an upcoming birth… An angel appears to Joseph in a dream to confirm Mary’s story… Unborn John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb when Mary visits Elizabeth… Angels visit shepherds in a field… A star leads wise men to Bethlehem… A Baby is born to a young Jewish virgin.

These are some of the miracles we remember at this time of the year. Of course the greatest Miracle is Jesus Himself… God made flesh… Immanuel – ‘God with us.’ As the Christmas parties and shopping and gift-giving take place all around the world, the Holy Spirit wants everyone to know the Miracle.

Jesus is the Message to the world. When we see Jesus, we see God. When we listen to Jesus, we listen to the Father. God reveals Himself through the Miracle of His Son. For those confused about God or hesitant about trusting a father or leery about religion, the Holy Spirit says: “Come to Jesus.”

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed Heir of all things and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

We know Jesus worked many miracles while on earth, and today He continues to work miracles… in us! We are not only cleansed because of Jesus… we are changed because of Jesus. God is not content to just forgive us, He aims to transform us into the image of His Son. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son…” (Romans 8:29)

When an angry, selfish, arrogant person comes to Christ and becomes peaceful, generous, and humble… the miracle of Jesus is at work. The ongoing work of God is to reveal His Son through us. May we present ourselves to Him as willing instruments, and may Christ be known in our world.

“This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ in you.” Colossians 1:26-27 (The Message)

Merry Christmas!!

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‘Advent’ derives from the Latin word that means ‘coming.’ On the four Sundays before Christmas, many celebrate the Advent season by focusing on the coming of the One announced by angels:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a Baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

While many prophecies pointed to the Messiah, no one knew exactly how God’s plan would transpire. Luke wrote about two old people who waited with beautiful expectation. Simeon held the Baby, blessed the family, and declared his life on earth complete after meeting little Jesus. Eighty-four-year-old Anna had constantly prayed and fasted in the temple while waiting for the promised One. When she witnessed His coming, she praised God and told others the good news. (See Luke 2:25-38)

While many prophecies point to Jesus’ return, no one knows exactly how God’s plan will transpire. Are there ‘Simeons’ or ‘Annas’ on earth today waiting with beautiful expectation?

Paul not only writes that the Holy Spirit creates such desire in us, but he shares that, indeed, all creation longs for the Day:

We know the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22-24)

The first Advent is history; the second is closer than ever.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed Hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14

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For five days, our son-in-law Jordan could not concentrate, process, or think clearly. Two times, once by ambulance, he was taken to the UAB emergency room. He spent three days in the hospital. Blood tests, a CT scan, two MRI’s, a spinal tap, and examinations by numerous doctors produced no hint of the source of the problem. Of course, Kinsey was at his bedside wondering whether life would ever be the same.

All of us were praying, but I could only share the truth that God was with both of them. On the fifth day, there seemed to be improvement and on the sixth day, the confusion finally subsided. Unfortunately, the spinal tap caused another several days of intense headaches that didn’t clear up until Thanksgiving. It is amazing how thankful we become after something lost is restored.

Jordan has completed four years of medical school and is in his fourth and final year of residency as an ophthalmologist. Having been named ‘chief resident,’ Jordan was looking forward to giving the speech to welcome thirty-five candidates for residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He missed his speech and all the festivities because he was in the hospital. But now Jordan and Kinsey are simply praising God.

Our brilliant Father is able to use difficulties, trials, and even loss for the good of His children. I would not presume to say to my daughter and her husband: “This is what you should learn…” But Kinsey and Jordan claim God is teaching them… and they gave me permission to share a bit. They keep using phrases like “new perspective,” “new priorities,” “re-dedication to what is important,” and “never be the same.” God alone knows our hearts, thoughts, and needs. And He loves us enough to teach us and discipline us and mold us and bless us. As parents here on earth, we do the best we can, but God’s brilliance goes beyond explanation.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit say: “Trust Him.”

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11

“My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child He loves that He disciplines; the child He embraces, He also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” Hebrews 12:5-11 (The Message)

“God, brilliant Lord, Your name echoes around the world.” Psalm 8:9 (The Message)

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My mom comments every year that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but she does not need to remind me. My earliest memories are of great food, family gatherings, and playing basketball or football in the neighborhood with friends. Later Thanksgiving memories always involved going to my girlfriend Susan’s house. My future in-laws also served fine meals. The next memories center at my parents’ house with our children and their cousins. The food was always wonderful; and I’ll always remember the kids playing outside for hours… along with an occasional trip to the emergency room.

A recent memory is of an ‘Amigos for Christ’ Thanksgiving meal in Nicaragua with our daughter Karlyn and about a hundred brothers and sisters in Christ after a hard day’s work in a rural village. Nationality, social status, age, or color of skin did not matter… we loved one another because we have all first been loved by a most generous Heavenly Father. And now I look forward to time with family that includes a six-month-old, a one-and-a-half-year-old, and a two-and-a-half-year-old. The day is approaching!

The Kingdom of God is also approaching! The Father desires all to gather around His Table to celebrate Life. Whether we were advantaged or disadvantaged on earth, the meal is for all. The Spirit says, ‘Come!’ The Son will be present and we will thank Him as the Host who paid the exorbitant price to make such an occasion possible.

Let us all first be sure we answer the invitation (see parable below) and then let us spread the word: “Come drink of the Living Water! The Kingdom of God is near!”

Happy Thanksgiving!!

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.’” Matthew 4:17

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who prepared a wedding banquet for His Son. He sent His servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then He sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared My dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized His servants, mistreated them and killed them. The King was enraged. He sent His army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then He said to His servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matthew 22:1-10

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first year of marriageFor a couple of days, Susan and I got to keep Owen and the dog Millie (they come as a package:) as Kinsey and Jordan went to the mountains. When we met at age fifteen, or even later at twenty-one when we married, I never contemplated what type of grandmother Susan would become. She probably didn’t think about me being a ‘grandpa’ either. (Why don’t you ponder these important matters while you’re young?)

Susan, affectionately called Susu by our grandkids, is the best of grandmothers. She loves Wilkes, Owen, and Macy with a huge heart. She enjoys keeping them, reading to them, and buying clothes and gifts for them. She also loves to pray for them.

Writing to Timothy from a personal and spiritual perspective, Paul included comments about Timothy’s mother and grandmother. What would we do without loving mothers and grandmothers?

“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
II Timothy 1:3-7

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