It is 6:30 in the morning, and outside it is dark and cold ... make that very dark and very cold! The thermometer tells me it is 28 degrees outside. And if it were not for the lingering effects of the Super Moon, there would be no light at all. A few snow flakes are fluttering about in the air.

I like the change of seasons, but ... mornings like this are tough. I am thankful that this is a 'Free Press Delivery Day'. The venture of a few feet down the driveway is much easier than the near mile of run/walk to the Speedway station. It will be two more weeks until the daylight starts gaining again on the night. Even though it is early morning and I am the only one up, I turn on the fireplace ... and the thought of staying here all day keeps lingering in the back of my mind.

I wonder what the earth looked like from heaven's perspective before that first Christmas. I think what God saw was dark and cold ... make that very dark and very cold ... no, very, very dark and very, very cold. Isaiah speaks of people walking in darkness, of people dwelling in a land of deep darkness. (Isaiah 9.2) These verses, though, lead into a very warm and encouraging messianic promise: "For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9.6) It is interesting to me that the first verse of this chapter is seldom read. "The gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future he will bring honor to the way of the sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations." (Isaiah 9.1) It may be interesting to me, but, as I re-read that verse, I realize it sounds quite boring on its own!

However Matthew tells us that, right after John was arrested, Jesus "left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali ... to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah." (Matthew 4.13-14) And then, almost surprisingly, the light and warmth that came to earth on Christmas starts to shine. "From then on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.'" (Matthew 4.17)

Where is all of this taking me? Well, first of all, I am reminded that, no matter how deep the darkness or bone-chilling the cold, the gloom and distress will not be like that of the former times because of that first Christmas ... and that God is saying to me, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you." (Isaiah 60.1) Secondly, though the thought of curling up in front of the fireplace with a good book ("Rich Church - Poor Church" is next on my list) sounds very appealing, it would be extremely selfish of me to ignore those first two words of Isaiah 60.

In the midst of every dark and wintry moment of our lives, no matter which season the calendar claims, in the center of every baptized community there is light and warmth, hope and courage. And it is all because of that first Christmas. On that day, "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1.14) "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it." (John 1.4-5)

And, if it is in the midst of every baptized community, this ember of hope and courage remains alive in every baptized individual ... no matter how dark or cold life may seem ... for we have something far greater than a Super Moon in our midst ... we have "the Word who became flesh making his dwelling among us!"

In other words, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you." Have a great day as you share His light and warmth with all you encounter.

The millennial males were coming out of the woodwork! In a recent short streak I had conversations with four almost back to back. One was married. One was getting married. One was in a relationship. One was divorced. Their spiritual paths were taking them in many different directions, but each was focused upon taking positive steps as they moved forward in life.

They were, in fact, moving forward in their lives in spite of many of them facing extremely challenging circumstances. This is something that excites me about this emerging 20's and 30's generation. It seems to me that they have a greater awareness of their story than I had at their age ... and their drive to move forward is strong.

I wish I could do more to help them ... I wish I were more like St. Paul who wrote, "I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law - though I myself am not under the law - to win those under the law. To those who are without the law, like one without the law - though I am not without God's law but under the law of Christ - to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings." (1 Corinthians 9.19-23)

When one gets down to the bottom line, we who have been saved through faith in Christ Jesus have one purpose in life ... and that is found in serving Jesus and his gospel to those in need ... no matter which direction it takes us ...

We already have it all. "There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. ... And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. ... If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?" (Romans 8.1-2, 11, 31-32)

The challenges millennials face come from every direction: depression ... drugs ... poor decisions ... unfortunate circumstances ... deficits in their backgrounds and personal losses. Their issues can be mental or emotional, physical or financial ... or all of the above. And, all too often, a major contributor to their struggles - though they do not tend to realize it - comes from an underdeveloped (or total lack of) relationship with Jesus! How different they are from those who really know Jesus, and are getting to know him better. Same challenges ... same issues ... totally different stories.

And then, all of a sudden (it must be a "God Thing") I realize that the millennials' story is no different from mine, or the generations between, before, or after! Our issues and challenges are all the same ... as is the answer! No matter what direction Satan's attacks come from, "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8.37-39)

And, since this IS true, WE WHO LIVE IN THE LOVE OF CHRIST JESUS ARE FREE to go in every direction ... South - East - North - West ... no matter what our age, circumstance or generation ... to serve Jesus and his Gospel to those in need ... no matter what their age, circumstance or generation.

As I drove home last evening, I reflected upon my last three appointments of the day. Two were in homes, one was at church. Each one was totally different from the other two, in people, circumstances, and conversations. Yet, I believed, God was at work in all three (though, again, in quite different ways). Crazy!

I turned on the radio to listen to the Red Wings, remembering that Monica was down at the LCA. Glancing at the clock, I figured the game should be in the second period. Did I hear that score right? It couldn't be! I listened closely for the next few minutes, waiting for it to be mentioned again. Sure enough, the Wings were ahead 5-1, and the game was not even half over! Crazy!

Once home, I turned the TV on to watch the rest of the game, and discovered that the craziness had just begun. The final score was 8-2. Mantha even had a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick!" For a recap, I recommend you go to the Free Press, rather than the AP, to get an accurate account of the rest of the story. Like I said, "Craziness!"

This morning my mind is back on those three appointments. One relationship developed through the reference of a member of STL. One through someone who has never been a member of STL. The third simply because, out of the blue, they called STL looking for help.

Some words that God gave us through David came to my mind. "Lord, your faithful love reaches to heaven, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your judgments like the deepest sea. Lord, you preserve people and animals. How priceless your faithful love is, God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They are filled from the abundance of your house. You let them drink from your refreshing stream. For the wellspring of life is with you. By means of your light we see light." (Psalm 36.5-9)

Each of our lives are crazy in different ways, and often in differing levels. We can go from "crazy busy" to "crazy bored" in an instant (though I certainly seem to encounter far more people on the "crazy busy" side of life). Before the Wings had gotten my attention, I had functioned as baby-holder, prayer-partner, referee, and a few other things in the matter of just a couple hours ... and that was not a half of the craziness.

Which is exactly why I need to live in promises like the one above. It calms my heart to be reminded that his "faithful love reaches to heaven" and his "righteousness is like the highest mountains." The pressure is totally off of me, and all, as he reassures us, "People take refuge in the shadow of (his) wings." In the midst of the craziness around us and within us, he empowers us to say, "How priceless is your faithful love, God! By means of your light we see light."

And that, I believe, is the real craziness. Through no merit or worthiness of our own, but simply because of his love for us, Jesus enters into our craziness to bring us refuge that can be found nowhere else. He enters our darkness and, "by means of (his) light we see light." Somehow, as he abides in us, we are eventually able to reflect upon the past and realize he was in control the entire time.

And, if that was true yesterday, it certainly will be true again today. In fact, whether I end up behaving like a human or an animal in the new craziness that today will bring, I know that I will be able to continually "drink from (his) refreshing stream." Why, because his Word assures me: "Lord, you preserve people and animals."

Like I said, "Craziness!"

As I look at the cup God has placed in my hand ... the very hand that he gave me, too ... I see that it overflows with his blessings. It is not half full. It is not half empty. It overflows with his goodness and mercy. My words cannot adequately express my thoughts this Thanksgiving Day, so I will simply share with you a sampling of greetings our Lord gives to us through Saint Paul.

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus." (1 Corinthians 1.3-4)

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1.2-3)

"Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Galatians 1.3-5)

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ." (Ephesians 1.2-3)

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer." (Philippians 1.2-3)

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints." (Colossians 1.2-4)

"Grace to you and peace. We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 1.1-3)

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing." (2 Thessalonians 1.2-3)

God is Good ... all the time, and I hope you get a sense of the message he would have you hear and receive from these greetings sent your way. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. ... He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness ... my cup overflows." (Psalm 23.1,3,5)

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, my friends. Enjoy the day ... and the food ... and the conversations (and the quiet times) ... and the day ... but, most of all, the fact that the cup God has placed in your hand ... the very hand that he gave you, too ... overflows with his goodness and mercy ... and it always will.

Monica and I became grandparents this past Friday. Brooklyn Marie was born at 2:43 p.m. She came home from the hospital on Sunday. All is well, and this certainly is one of the most exceptional events a family can experience. With the choirmaster of old we say, "Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!" (Psalm 66.1-3). ... BUT

Oh, I know I am entering into the danger zone with that word. I have no intention of tempering the joy and excitement (and I know I couldn't even if I wanted to). Nor is my joy any less than anyone else's in the family, but ...

But other realities of life continue in the midst of all the joy! And another reality that is facing me this week is that many things in our world are broken, and I cannot fix them. For instance, the shooting in Texas has people across the country talking about Christians bringing guns to church to, I presume, "shoot the bad guys!" For instance, just as it appeared that Tuesday's Text was blossoming into a very special blessing, the app on my phone started malfunctioning (Three or four different attempts have been made to fix it, but, so far, to no avail - it continues to insist upon functioning like a typical group text). For instance, rather than catching up on the calls I really should be making, I see myself falling farther and farther behind. Not only is the world broken, so am I!

And then, just when I needed it most, God used Jim Leyland (of all people) to rescue me! There, on page 9C of Today's Free Press, he was quoted to say, "When you're high, never get too happy because you know you'll be going down. And when you're down, never get too low on yourself or mope and pout because it will go back up. It's a roller-coaster. And the people who can remain steady and even are the ones who end up at the top when it's all said and done." New babies bring 24-7 responsibilities. Technology glitches get updates. God gets people touched by the Gospel in many different ways, and by many different people.

A good way to work at becoming 'steady and even' is to follow the Philippians 4.4-7 Formula: "Rejoice in the Lord always" PLUS "Let your gentleness be known to all - the Lord is near" PLUS "Don't worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." The net result? "The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus."

Or, as it was expressed in our Wednesday morning men's FHL, "Abide in God's Word. Be yourself. And know that the correctives will come."

Jesus puts it this way, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8.31-32). Neither the truth that Jesus speaks of, or the freedom, are of the type that the world runs after. However they do connect to 'the ones who end up at the top when it's all said and done.'

The bifocals I wear are very helpful. They help my eyes to see clearly things that are both far and near. What I need, though, is a second pair that helps everything behind my eyes see things just as clearly ... to remember that in the midst of life's joys and blessing that "the Lord is near" ... and to likewise be assured that, amidst the brokenness he remains "an ever present help in trouble." (Psalm 46.1) ... for this is the truth that sets us free ... the peace that passes all human understanding ... and what Paul speaks of as he writes, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15.13)

And, by the way, I know you are just dying to see the pictures I have in my phone ...

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