TO THE WORD! Isaiah 8: 11-22

From ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo comes the cry–‘to the barricades!’  To battle.  Stand up for what you believe in.  Don’t roll over and play dead.  Be bold.  Speak your peace, even if it stirs up quite the contrary.

We live in contentious times.  Everyone taking sides, and being rather nasty about it.  I remember the ’60’s race riots, when I’m a student at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute, as acrid smoke of burning buildings billows in the air.  Or Vietnam War controversies.  A president resigning.  Political candidates and religious leaders shot and killed.  My being the 2nd birth date chosen in the lottery for the Vietnam draft.  The only lottery I’ve ever won!

Such is life.  You have your own story.  Could go on and on, but let’s cancel the pity party!  As the new year approaches, let’s not go to the barricades, but to the Bible.  One of the best decisions I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a few in my lifetime!) is to decide without flinching, without making lots of excuses, without allowing unnecessary interruptions, without heading to the barricades, but running headlong to the Bible!  As in reading it all year long.  All of it.  Its entirety.

Isaiah 8: 19-20–‘…should not the people inquire of their God?  Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?  To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of days’.  Here’s the point.   Why waste time with ‘dead’ things.  With colossal wastes of time, which fritter away what can never be reclaimed.  You know what your ‘dead’ things are.  I know mine.

Why not make your commitment today to spend quantity and quality time with your Lord Jesus in God’s living Word.  From January 1st until December 31st.  I’ve never known anyone, anywhere, ever who regrets time with the Master.

To the Bible!  All year long.  Cover to cover.  Genesis to Revelation.  Ready?  Set?  Go!  To the Word!  Happy New Year!


Lord, we look forward to time with you in your Word all year long.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

MARY’S CHRISTMAS Luke 1: 39-56

Christmas Day is right around the corner.  Are you ready?  I usually get shopping done as early as possible.  Our poor daughters-in-law bugged for grandchildren’s gift ideas, as I start inquiring around the 4th of July!  Truly!

The virgin Mary starts her preparations early.  After discovering that a miracle pregnancy occurs, she hightales it out of Nazareth, spending many months with godly relatives, Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Elizabeth also is expecting a ‘blessed event’.   She carries John the Baptist.

So, Mary settles in for the long haul.  Did her relatives wonder if she’d ever go home?  Probably not.  People in that culture make hospitality their priority.  My asking the question says something about me, however!

Mary’s Christmas begins with one of the most beautiful songs in all the Bible.  Theologians called it the ‘Magnificat’, from Latin language, for Mary’s soul ‘magnifies’ the Lord.  Her song tells us much about Mary herself.  At a time when females have little access to literacy or education, Mary is versed in her Bible.

The ‘Magnificat’ (Luke 1: 39-56)  is soaked in the Old Testament, especially the Psalms.  She knows her Bible.  Her parents have made this possible.  Certainly not required in her society.  She would have been well respected in home, family and village without any formal education.

But Mary aspires for more.  She wants to know her God and her Bible.  Mary’s Christmas will be girded in Scripture.  Bound secure by her Lord’s promises.  Think how her life will be topsy-turvy for as long as she lives because of this child.  Not an easy life.  Not at all.  But Mary trusts her Lord.  Her ‘…spirit rejoices in God my savior…’ (Luke 1:47).  Mary’s Christmas will be merry because God is centered in the marrow of her being.

As the day arrives this week, open your Bible to Luke 1:39-56, and read of Mary’s Christmas.  Bathe in His Word.  Saturate in Scripture.  No skimming allowed.  Forget the speed-reading.

By the way, why not recall how much the Lord has given you…and me…this day of Jesus’ magnificence.  Mull it over.  It’s not easy in this confused, cluttered, muddied and muddled holiday.  Try, as best you can, to pivot toward God’s great gift…Jesus!  He’s worth the effort.

Merry Christmas!

Thank you for Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  In His name.  Amen.


New Year’s day is only two weeks away.  I hope you’ve had a chance to order my recently published daily devotional entitled ‘Reminders’.  A new message for everyday of the year.  Would make a nice gift for someone you love.  Someone you’d like to see grow closer to Jesus in their daily walk.  Someone in need of a word of encouragement during difficult times.

You can order your copy today on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Kobo.  All but Kobo allow you to purchase a copy as a gift.  Just note the ‘Buy for Others’ tab and make a lasting gift that travels with them wherever they go.  Digital copies are very versatile indeed!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, healthy New Year.  Wow~2019!


An Old Testament Christmas?  From the Book of Esther?  Don’t judge me as if I’m nutty as a holiday fruitcake!  Maybe there’s something to ponder from this first Testament.  Think so?  After all, none of us is totally comfortable with the Christmas celebration as it’s become.  Are we?

Too much commercialism.  Too much stuff.  Too many hurt feelings from the past.  Some gifts that seem more like a slam than a present.  What to give someone who needs nothing more.  Crowds and bills pile up.  Wouldn’t you rather go to sleep today and wake up January 2nd?  Excuse me, I’m about to nod off!

Nevertheless, it’s time to celebrate!  Jesus is born!  Messiah comes!  Promises made and kept…by God!  All our sins handled by the Master–all forgiven.  All believers given new life.  All because of Jesus, born to Mary.  All the love in the universe, wrapped up in swaddling clothes, lying in Bethlehem’s manger.

Celebrate!  As God’s people do in the Book of Esther.  Here’s a story of a saved people.  Their common enemy destroyed.  A people pulled from the brink of annihilation.  What then?  Read Esther 9.

Of course, celebrate!  Esther 9 says that every year on two days they will remember when their sorrow turns to joy, their mourning to exaltation.  And what more?  Gifts are given–‘…a day of joy and feasting, a day of giving presents to each other’ (v.19), and ‘…as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor’ (v.22).  There it is–an Old Testament Christmas!

This year I’m not harboring any regrets over Christmas.  None.  Forget it.  Wasted energy.  We’re giving to each other along with gifts to help others have a better life, especially to know Jesus, the reason for it all.

What’s to feel guilty about when we’re ‘painting the town red’ for Jesus?  For the babe of Bethlehem!  Our Messiah!

Join me?  Why not?  Celebrate!

Thank you, Lord, for the joys of knowing Jesus.  Amen.






Christmas carols can be heard in stores ever since the ‘dog days’ of summer or so it seems!  When I owned a 1972 VW Super Beetle, which had a cassette tape player, I’d listen each December (not a month earlier!) to recordings of Christmas carol organ improvisations by John Detroy, the organist at my first church, who also played the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.  Such a talented and gentle man.

One Detroy gem was a take on ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’.  My wife and I have been to Bethlehem in Israel.  Not so ‘little’ anymore.  Bible scholars posit that ‘Bethlehem’ means ‘house of bread’.  A name which celebrates one of the basics of life.

Now take a gander at Psalm 105, focusing on verses 37-41.  The psalmist recollects Israel’s exodus from Egypt, and how God cares for His own, even in terrible places during turbulent times.  God’s people, freed from slavery, now roam desert sands.  They’re given promises though little else.

They’re tired, hot, hungry and thirsty– ‘They asked, and he (God) brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.  He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert’ (Ps. 105:40-41).  Meat…bread…water.  The basics.

This Christmas I’m challenged to thank God for all those basics in my life.  The blessings He gives that rarely show up on my appreciation radar screen.  Those mostly taken for granted.  Now, we pause to thank the Lord.

For our dear Australian friends, Jack and Maggie, who always encourage me, saying how much these weekly devotions mean to them.  For our newspaper delivery guy John, who often puts ours right next to our front door, especially on frosty mornings.  For neighbor’s smiles and waves.  For grandkids, who love coming to our home, even tolerating Silly Papa!  And a wife who has so many wonderful qualities, including choosing to share life with the likes of me.

Now think of your own.  Shouldn’t be too difficult.  Take your time and enjoy remembering the Lord’s many basics, whatever and whoever.  Being grateful feels pretty good, huh?  Tastes like bread from heaven!


Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings this season and always.  For Jesus most of all.  Amen.


FULL Galatians 4: 1-7

Galatians 4 contains the Apostle Paul’s Christmas story, where he speaks of time in its fullness when Jesus is born of Mary, born under Moses’ Law, to buy us out of sin’s slavery through His death on the Cross.  Time was full, filled with meaning.  Bringing redemption to believing mankind.

Tomorrow begins the Advent season.  The last church Sue and I served had a fullness to that time.  Today, I’d like to celebrate what that meant to us and who made it special.  Precious church members, friends all, who fashioned this month full of love and joy, light and worship.  You may not know any of these people, but hopefully you have your own who form life full and good.

It all begins with Ruth and Tinker dragging out the large artificial Christmas tree (we always ask to help; and sometimes, though not often, they’d accept!), assembling it in the chancel area.  Multiple ornaments, inscribed with the names of past church family, are hung on the tree.  Good to remember those saints we loved, now with our Lord Jesus.  Like Etta Good, John Barnes, Cathy Brown, Cecil Herrington to name but a few.

Byron and Gloria would come a few days later, hanging two large wreathes on the back walls of the sanctuary.  Then they’d string and twist strands of multi-colored lights on the choir railing in addition to the pulpit.

Christmas banners, created by my wife Sue, are hung on side walls, telling the story of Jesus, the holy couple and the Magi.  A large stand can be found near the organ for lighting candles each Advent Sunday, and then all of them on Christmas Eve.  Every week a different church family would light the appropriate candles and read a portion of the Christmas story from the Bible.

Roberta rehearses the choir for our annual Christmas cantata.  We log in at about 18 singers of varied skill and enthusiasm.  Not bad considering our church attendance is usually around 50.  We joke that there won’t be enough out there to hear us!  Maybe that’s not a so bad after all!

Lights…candles…singing…Scripture…God’s precious people.  All achieve a full season.  And then comes the finale on Christmas Eve.  Some years my wife places luminaries on the walkway up to the church’s front door.  Paper bags filled with stabilizing sand and a lit candle lighting the way.

We celebrate Jesus, the Light of the World.  Often Christmas Eve overflows with family and friends.  Special music groups from other churches, which have no Christmas Eve service, come and bless us all.  No monetary offering this night.  Just joy in the Lord.  To thank Him for the gift of His Son Jesus.

These are some of my reflections out of my time.  What are yours?  Thank the Lord for all who make your life as full as it is.  By the way, I’m grateful for you!


Thank you for Jesus in all His fullness.  Amen.