Sunday, November 29, 2009

You Are Not Forgotten

I've written an Advent devotional book for my church family. The devotions are sermon excerpts from 28 years of Advent preaching. I've tweaked them a bit, rounded them off here and there, and put them in a devotional format. Each devotional includes a Scripture text and a guide to prayer. May they stir you to wonder and praise.
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. … And he will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah … to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17).

I still can’t believe we did it. It was a routine Sunday. We went to church at different times in two different cars. I led worship. Shook hands with folks after the service. Locked all the doors. And went home. That’s when we noticed what we’d done. We were one kid short. Kristen was a little toddler—she was there. But where was Nathan? “I thought you had him,” said Dayna. “Me?” I said, “I thought you had him.” At least we knew where he was. A family called and said, “I think you forget something at church.” So I hopped back in the car, raced to church, and there he was—having fun on the playground with a friend. Unbelievable! Dayna and I had forgotten our son. And it wasn’t like we had six or seven kids to keep track of. We just had the two. And we still forgot him.

You ever been forgotten? Ever felt that way? Your children don’t write or call. That friend who said she’d be in touch never followed through. After twenty years in the same company you get a pink slip and that’s that. You buried a loved one, and all the attention you got for a couple of weeks has dried up like a creek bed in August. Forgotten. And sometimes we even feel forgotten by God—prayers that don’t seem to get past the ceiling, worship that never seems to connect. The word is forgotten.

Zechariah and Elizabeth felt that way. Now ready for the old age home, they had no children, no legacy—forgotten. But when the angel met Zechariah in the temple, he reminded Zechariah that they weren’t forgotten after all—the stork was on the way. And this would be no ordinary child. This is the child who grew to become the one we know as John the Baptist. This is the child whose voice would declare after 400 years of heaven’s silence that the people of Israel were not forgotten either: Messiah is on the way!

Even when you feel forgotten, you are not forgotten. God knows who you are and where you are and what you need. Be patient. Wait on the Lord. And when the time is right, He will do a great work in your life. And in the meantime, remember that the Messiah John proclaimed didn’t just come for Israel; He came for you, too. You may be tired. You may be frustrated. You may be impatient. But you are NOT forgotten.

Guide to Prayer
· If you have frustrations with God, confess them to Him now.
· Give God thanks that the Christmas story reminds us that God does not forget His people.
· Pray for patience and trust to wait on the Lord’s timing for His work in your life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Count Your Many Blessers

One thing you can count on in many churches on the Sunday before Thanksgiving is that they'll be singing Count Your Blessings. You may know the hymn: "Count your blessings / name them one by one. / Count your blessings / see what God has done." It's a great hymn and a great reminder not to take our blessings for granted. Count them. Give thanks for them. Notice how you find God in them. It's a good hymn.
Could I propose another? How about this one: Count Your Blessers. When was the last time you did this? I'm going to do it right now.
  • A mother and father—though divorced when I was in the third grade—who did the best they could under the circumstances.
  • A grandmother who took my mother, my two brothers and me into her home when my mother left my dad. That woman took care of us. She also worked at the local high school. I still remember walking with her to school each morning and hanging out with her in the high school office until it was time to walk a little farther to the elementary school.
  • A pastor and family, the Prices, who took us under their wings as we were traveling the rough road of divorce.
  • A fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Dennis, who pulled me aside one day and told me she thought I was going to amount to something in the world because I had a good attitude. She spoke those words in 1966 and I've never forgotten them. Life words!
  • A junior high football coach, Mr. Cogdill, who believed in me enough to let me quarterback our team.
  • A few ministers who mentored me, fathered me, loved me, and gave me opportunities I could have never achieved on my own: Gary Fenton, Jack Enloe, Gilbert Spencer, Larry Baker, and Bob Meade.
  • Great friends—too many to name—who have encouraged me and challenged me and made me a better person than I would have been without them.
  • My wife Dayna who loves me unconditionally and who puts up with my cursed independent streak and my lifelong struggle of balancing my attention to the needs of the church with my attention her needs too.
  • Churches that have loved me and endured me and shaped me into the pastor I have become and am still becoming today. They deserved better.
  • And of course, the smiling face behind my many blessers: the face of God, Blesser in Chief, of my life and yours.

I could go on, but my granddaughter is hounding me to get off the computer so she can use it to do puzzles or something. So in this season of Thanksgiving, don't just count your blessings; count your many blessers too. And give thanks!