Monthly Archives: December 2011

You are Highly Favored

“It is no small thing to be highly favored by God.  Especially when you are acutely aware of how preposterous this idea truly is.”^

To know that you are higly favored by God can be a life-changing moment.  It is the kind of thing that changes your perspective on the world.  I remember when I realized that I was highly favored by God.  It didn’t come to me an instant.  It was something I realized over time, and when it finally struck me, it changed my world.

When you realize that you are highly favored by God, nothing will ever be the same.

For me it came in junior high.  The realization came to me when I realized that God loved me for me.  It came to me when I knew that nothing I did or said could earn God’s love.  When I knew that I was highly favored by God I learned that my missing homework assignment couldn’t change that.  My disappointing test couldn’t change that.  The things that I forgot, misplaced, or mishandled were not bigger than the steadfast love of God.

I can’t point to any one moment when I realized that I was highly favored by God, but it was no small thing, for it changed the way I saw myself, and it changed the way I saw the world.

In the Gospel of Luke we find Mary’s Song, also known as The Magnificat.  It is Mary’s song of glory after meeting Elizabeth.  Elizabeth, who was herself expecting a child whose conception was surrounded in mystery, was filled with the Holy Spirit and pronounced God’s blessing upon Mary and her child.  Mary’s response:

“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

Mary is highly favored by God, and it is no small thing.  When she came to that realization, she sang praise to God.  She realized that through her the promise of God would be fulfilled.  She sings a song of praise and promise.  It is praise to the God that has held her in favor.  It is praise of the God that will turn the world upside down.  It is a song of the promise of God that this has already been fulfilled in the baby she is carrying.  God’s promise has not begun with the coming of Jesus.  It has been fulfilled.

The gift of Jesus is from the God that scatters the proud and fills the hungry.  This is a God that has turned the world upside down by becoming flesh.  Everything would be different because of the coming child.  For all of this, Mary sings out in praise and thanksgiving.

This however, was not Mary’s first reaction.  A few verses earlier, when the angel told Mary what was coming, her response was marked with confusion, fear, and a quiet resolution.  It took Elizabeth to stir in her the power of praise.  There is a lot to be said of the bond of one mother to another.  Elizabeth was a person that Mary knew and presumably respected.  She was a relative – maybe a cousin, certainly older.  I like to think of her as Mary’s aunt.  Mary went to her Aunt’s house when she was in trouble.  She found there a woman who loved her, who comforted her, and who made her feel empowered in a way that even the angel could not.  I can imagine the remarkable bond between Elizabeth and Mary because I knew an aunt much like that.

In the midst of her trouble and fear Mary was given hope and grace through the words of someone that loved her.  She realized that she was highly favored by God.  Her response was a song that has lived through the ages as a testimony to God’s power.  It is a song that reminds us that God used Mary to fulfill God’s promise.  It is a song that we may rise and sing today.  In the midst of your trouble and your fear, I want you to know, “You are highly favored by God.”  Trust in God’s love, and your life will never be the same.

Know that God loves you and wants to use you to fulfill God’s promise.  You are highly favored by God, let your heart glorify the Lord.


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^I wish I remember where I read this.  As I was doing some reading for my sermon this Sunday on the Magnificat, I read these words on someone else’s blog.  They hit me with such a force that I didn’t even keep reading, but I built my sermon – and this blog – around this idea.  This might not be a direct quote, but I didn’t feel right not attributing this to someone.


Filed under Christianity, Sermons

Christmas Cover Photos

It would be awesome if at some point this Christmas season, #BeChristThisChristmas could trend on twitter.  These two cover photos could help people start thinking about how they can do something more at Christmas than complain about store signs and school plays that don’t proselytize.

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Waiting for the child

My perspective on waiting for Christmas was forever changed when my wife was expecting our first daughter.  During my first Advent as a  pastor, I was not only expecting the coming of the Christ child, but was eagerly anticipating the coming of my first daughter (who would be born in January).

Anticipating the coming of a child is like no other kind of waiting I’ve ever experienced.  We did our best to prepare.  We put together a crib.  We stocked up on diapers.  We were given clothes and books and toys and countless well-wishes and prayers.  We were overwhelmed by the generosity of our family and friends.  As we waited for the child to come we knew that we were surrounded by an entire church family that was eagerly waiting with us.

It was appropriate that the process of giving birth began in church.  At the end of a Bible study, surrounded by a few of our closest friends, my wife knew that the baby was coming.  About 18 hours later we were holding our daughter.

I held that precious, fragile, resilient little baby in my arms and I knew one thing: I was not ready.

There is no way to be totally ready for a baby to come.  There are certainly different levels of preparedness, but no one can anticipate, guess or even imagine what it is like to suddenly be entrusted with a child.  In that moment I knew that I would do anything – any thing – to protect that child and her mother.  She changed my perspective.  She changed my goals.  She changed my dreams, my hopes, my fears and my worries.  For the rest of my life my joy would be magnified by her smile, my despair would be multiplied by her tears, and my peace would depend on her safety.  A baby changes everything – and that is the message of Christmas.

The birth of Jesus changed everything.  The eternal Word of God was made flesh, and nothing would ever be the same.

At Advent we are called to prepare the way of the Lord.  There are many things that we can do to prepare the way of the Lord.  I’ve been tweeting #BeChristInChristmas with ideas and ways to work for the Kingdom of God during the Christmas season.  We can read the Bible, pray, study, worship, serve, and wait.  There are so many ways that we can prepare for the coming of the Christ child, but the fact remains is that we can never be fully ready.

The birth of Jesus changed everything, and as we move through Advent my prayer is that Christmas can break through the hearts and minds of all who would separate themselves from God.  Allow God to change your perspective.  Allow God to change your goals.  Open up and let Jesus change your dreams, your hopes, your fears and your worries.  Allow your Joy to be magnified by the glory of God.  Invite the Holy Spirit to weep with you in your times of despair.  May the peace of Christ – the peace that surpasses all understanding – be with you.  This Christmas, Jesus can change everything.


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In Case You Missed It

All I can say after the last week of activity on The Fat Pastor is, “wow.”   On November 15, I posted the blog called “Err on the Side of Grace.”  My faceb0ok status that day told my 72 followers that the blog had just reached 70,000 views.  A few days later I posted “Congratulations Coach,” my commentary on the Penn State tragedy.  A few days later I sent that into a newspaper in hopes of being selected as their “Guest Sports Columnist,” a gig which would have given me a sports column every five weeks for an unknown amount of time.

Then one night I decided to create a picture.  I worked on it for a few hours.  I agonized over the wording of it (I had about four different versions before going with the Micah 6:8 version).  I posted it, shared it and then something amazing happened.  In the 12 days since posting it, over 68,000 people have come to The Fat Pastor.  It took one day for December 2011 to be the second busiest month on this blog.  In this short time period I’ve added over 800 FB fans and 125 email subscribers.  The picture I created has been shared 837 times.

So now I have this new following, and I can’t help but think, “I’ve written some good stuff before that picture.”  It also kind of bothers me that the most popular blog I’ve ever written “Happy Holidays,” is also the sharpest, angriest blog I’ve ever written.  I’ve written 197 other blogs, and some of them (I think) have been pretty good. 

So this post is for all the new followers.  Consider it my “Greatet Hits.”  They might not be the most popular blogs I’ve written, but they are a few that tell the full story of what this site is all about.

And it Was Still Hot – Where the Wild Things Are was my favorite book as a boy, and this was my reflection about the movie before it was released.

Doug Rees – My wife and I saw Doug in a very intimate concert, and had a great time.  It was a night of great music, and the beginning of a friendship.

Why Church? 

Why I love baseball 

Come to the feast – What does it mean to “do this in remembrance of me”?

10 years later in a 9/12 world – A reflection on the 10th anniversary of 9/11

Translators Needed – To speak the gospel to a new generation, we need to know the language.

USA! USA! – A response to the death of Osama Bin Laden


Filed under Blogging