“What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the HOLY ONE of GOD!” Mark 1:24

Jesus, teaching on the Sabbath, in the synagogue, with authority, amazed the people. BUT they could not see what the demon-possessed man could see. The most religious and pious were blind.

Jesus sat teaching and they could not see WHO he was!

How often am I blind to the presence of God? How often am I “strangely warmed” by something—they were amazed at his teaching—yet I cannot see Christ in that moment?

Perhaps my vision clouded by my presuppositions, or expectations blinds me preventing me from seeing God here and now in this moment.

Do I presume, expect or suppose God is here? Do I begin with the bias of God’s activity, on-going even in this moment?

To assume otherwise would mean:

  • God is not here
  • God is not active.
  • God is not moving…here in this moment.

Only the atheist begins with these presuppositions.

Where can I go and not be in God’s presence? David debated this in song and reasoned no matter where I go, God is there and in fact goes before me.

That God exists presupposes God’s presence here and now.

Where can I go and NOT be in God’s presence, SO every moment, situation, or challenge is pregnant with possibility because God exists.

Say so! Declare, “God you are here.”

The man, this irreligious-far-from-God-filled-with-satan-man said, “You are the HOLY ONE of GOD!

You are here. You are present.

This chained up, possessed man, proclaimed, “You are here!”

And he was healed. He was set free. The evil that held him lost its grip because he acknowledged the HOLY ONE of GOD.

How many “amazed” others went home that day still in chains of disbelief, lost in the hopelessness of life without God but this man went home unchained and filled with HOPE!

God was present and they missed it!

Right now, today, in this moment, God is present, active, ready to break your chains, move in your life, set you free, act on your behalf.

Say so!

Let it be your cry of desperation, your whisper of faith, your warrior’s shout to the enemy you are staring down right now! 

Jesus, you are the HOLY One of God!

You are here right now.

You are acting on my behalf now!

#hopeclarksville

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Pressing on with HOPE

Frustrating, isn’t it?  We decide to live a different life, we are determined to believe again, inspired to dream again, encouraged to have hope again then suddenly, life seems to attack us. We decide to “see to it” that the light within us is fully displayed, then experience a full on frontal attack and we are surprised. 

Why are we surprised? It happens every time we try to move in the right direction. Resistance.

Christmas celebrates hope coming into the world. Light enters our darkness. Hope comes but the ENEMY STRIKES BACK!!  God moving toward us in the birth of Christ was met with resistance.  King Herod was THE king in the region where this baby was born. His response to this BORN-KING in BETHLEHEM was not so welcoming.  Herod’s only interest in this young child was to preserve his own grip of power.

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”” Matthew 2:16-18 NIV

However, Joseph and Mary escaped south to Egypt with the baby. They return after King Herod dies and settle down in Nazareth. By the time Jesus had called his disciples and began his ministry another King Herod rules.

Jesus was not only opposed by the political power brokers.  During his ministry, the religious leaders and teachers of the law have designs on this famed teacher from Nazareth who has garnered quite a following. If only he can be turned…

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:15-17).

A refusal to pay the imperial tax could give way to rebellion and given Jesus’ fame and following, these religious leaders could have been trying to use his influence to stir a rebellion, so they might come to power. That they were joined with Herodians may indicate Herod’s desire to redirect this movement for his advancement. Jesus refused…

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away” (Matthew 22:18-22).

Even his followers were tempted by the “dark side” (Excuse my Star Wars preoccupation, but there are many parallels). Peter rebukes Jesus when he tells him he would “…be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:22-23).

Even Judas betrayed him.

You threaten people. You back a dog into a corner and they will fight back!

Listen to the religious leaders plotting against Jesus:

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs.If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:47-50).

When you upset the empire, expect the empire to strike back.  Pilate had him flogged and crucified only to appease the people and maintain his position of power.

Evil’s grip is strong.

Evil and evil men arrested, tried, judged and executed Jesus, but it was God’s plan all along.  Listen to Peter’s words from the book of Acts:

“…listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:22-23).

It was God’s deliberate plan. Evil did not triumph. Evil did not nail Christ to the cross.

God’s love for you sent His Son. Christ’s obedience to the will of the Father fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law, because we could not. Hope born on Christmas day lives today.  Jesus “…made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-9).

Evil’s grip is strong. God’s grip is stronger.

Hope born Christmas day, lived a perfect life and died innocent. Hope crucified. Hope died. Hope buried in a tomb.

Hope resurrected on the third day, lives now!

True God. Real People. Lasting Hope.

@hopeclarksville

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Hope…the light has come!

Christ came into the world bringing hope in the midst of evil and light in the midst of darkness. Darkness has not overcome it, cannot understand it and cannot extinguish this true light…

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9).

The TRUE Light who gives light to everyone, who created the world, and came into the world, yet the world rejected him.

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:9).

Jesus Christ, our only hope, entered our darkness and hope was born.

Yet darkness still exists. 

Christ came into the world over 2,000 years ago, yet darkness seems to be winning.  Why?

Jesus explains when he says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20).

Light has come into the world, but people love darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone fears exposure. We get this as we read once again our newsfeed concerning ‘gaff-du jour’.  We watch as light reveals the worst in our politicians, news-reporters, entertainers, and others. We are appalled by their actions but would never want someone looking so deeply and meticulously into our past or our present.

We fear the light and what it might reveal of our own brokenness. Darkness offers some comfort. Anonymity allow us to move about in the dark. And so, we hide.

And lose.

You never really know me. I am hiding in the dark. And if I am hiding something, so are you.  You can’t really trust me, and neither can I trust you. Darkness…my old friend.

Being known and knowing never happens in the dark room of non-disclosure.

Being known and knowing never happens in the dark room of non-disclosure. We long for friendship, companionship and community, but we never experience these in the dark.  If you really knew me, you would reject me. If I reveal my true identity and am rejected, then what?

Light offers hope. The enemy want us to fear the light and exposure.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Jesus is the light. He knows me. Jesus knows everything about me, even the things I’ve kept hidden even from those closest to me. Jesus knows EVERYTHING. Everything means everything! BUT Jesus does not reject me. 

Neither does he reject you.

Jesus came into the world knowing you and I would choose the darkness over light. Jesus came to pursue us, step into our darkness and invite us to overcome our fear and have faith.

Evil exists but Hope has come. Darkness persists but has not overcome The Light!

Christ has come and extends you an invitation. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

This NEW HOPE extends God’s grace offer to you—to those who did receive him. You can do that right now—Christ I receive your grace offer, enter into MY darkness and let your light shine in me.

Christ-followers have the light and walk in the light. Their deeds revealing the Light within them and the Light revealing their walk. More responsibility than privilege, our having the Light and walking in the Light calls us to reveal God’s presence in the world.

But have we become part of the darkness? We are quick to cry out against the evil in the world around us especially when it threatens us, disturbs us, or troubles us. Often, we fail to see the evil in our own actions. We quickly move to remove the splinter in another’s eye failing to see the log in our own eye!

Jesus warns us, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35).

This little light of mine…do we let it shine? Do people see the Light of the Word in us?

Paul said, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light (Ephesians 5:8, 13).

Jesus calls us into God’s glorious light. Hope has come, and Christ has chosen to display his life in us.  Hope has come into the world. God invites you into the light…to be part of the light…to bring hope.

True God. Real People. Lasting Hope. @hopeclarksville

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HopeChristmas

hope has come into the world and we are witnesses of this hope”

In 1977, George Lucas’s A New Hope, was released and Luke, ObiWan, Princess Leia, Hans Solo, Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO became household names. This story of hope overcoming the dark menacing evil of the dark side made our imaginations soar.

In A New Hope, we watch Luke leave his self-focused and self-absorbed ways to throw himself into the battle for freedom, and literally, risk his life for a broader community. One moment he is whining to his uncle Owen, “…but I was going to go pick up some power converters…” and the next he is in the fight of his life, risking it all, to save the rebellion and destroy the evil encroaching upon his world.

Granted when the movie came out, I identified more with Luke, ready to take on the evil in the world, but now I am more of an ObiWan character…

There are many parallels between this story and the story of Christmas. Luke’s aunt and uncle were not his parents and like Zechariah & Elizabeth, they are barren and fruitless. Even the planet they are living on is a desolate wasteland dried and empty of all opportunity. Seemingly, so insignificant, Imperial Forces paid them little attention.

Israel while self-governing does so under the command of Rome with their own provincial ruler. Their so-called Jewish King, Herod, came to be king through bribery and barbarism. So too the Emperor in George Lucas’s myth. When Herod hears the news from the King-seeking-Magi, we find him “…disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”

When your king is a madman, you become disturbed when he is disturbed.  When you are ruled by one who considers people a means to an end, the troubling of your leader creates trouble for you! Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, and countless others existed in this empire of evil and the whole world groaned under the weight of its oppression.

Such was the fate of Luke’s adoptive parents as we are introduced to them in the first release of the Star Wars movies. Darkness. Oppression. Desperation.  All words describing their difficult existence while living under the cloud evil. While the story is fiction, their situation describes well the darkness of evil.

Hope in the midst of darkness stories make for box office hits. We immerse ourselves in their stories identifying with the beaten, enslaved and hopeless knowing our hope will come.  Stories where our hero or heroine come from unlikely places and especially those who seem unprepared for the task gain our closest attention. As we watch their character develop, usually with trips, stumbles and then recovery, we begin seeing them as the hope rising in their midst.

What if it wasn’t just a story?

What if the story was not fiction but history? Hope has entered into the world in the coming of Christ. He was born into a world of evil and darkness. He came as Light in the midst of darkness.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. —John 1:1-5

Christ came into the world. Hope in the midst of evil. Light in the midst of darkness. Darkness has not overcome it, cannot understand it and cannot extinguish this true light…

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world… 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.—John 1:9, 14

Jesus Christ, our only Hope, entered our darkness and Hope was born. We celebrate this Light-piercing darkness and Hope overcoming evil entering our lives every Christmas.

True God. Real People. Lasting Hope.

@hopeclarksville

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