Ero Cras

I am no Latin expert, not by a long shot.  However, one of my favorite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  Consider the first verse:

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

The outline for the entire hymn dates back to a thousand years ago. A week before Christmas,  Monks would chant poetic verses to commemorate the arrival of Jesus. In the 1800s John Neal took those chants, turned them into a song and called it “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.” The significance of the Gregorian chants are their names for Jesus: wisdom, Adonai (Hebrew name for God), root of Jesse, key of David, dayspring, King of the Gentiles, and Emmanuel.

If you take the first letter of these words in Latin, and read them backward, they spell “ero cras,” a Latin phrase meaning, “I will be present tomorrow.”

That’s the point of Christmas. Christmas is a promise that God will be present tomorrow. Belief that God will be present in all of our tomorrows makes today more bearable. We worry about tomorrow. We fret over the unknown. What if you had a choice: you could either know all of your tomorrows or you could have God with you in all of your tomorrows. You couldn’t handle knowing all your tomorrows at once. The weight of the suffering and the anticipation of the joy would overwhelm you. Having God with you through all of them–that enables you to enjoy today and anticipate tomorrow.

For today, thank God that He is the God of tomorrow.

Hope that Dispels Darkness

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

Isaiah spoke of this before it happened as if it already had. It wasn’t wishful thinking on his part. God’s promises are as sure as the air you breathe, the ground on which you stand, the earth on which you live. Paul, addressing Titus referred to the God who “never lies.” When God speaks, it will happen. We call this hope.

Hope is not wishful thinking; it is confident expectation because God is trustworthy. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:20-22 ESV)

This Christmas as you ponder the reality of Christ’s birth remember that the God who gave His Son has given us two surefire guarantees. One is mentioned above–his Spirit. Christ, through the Spirit, lives in our hearts as a guarantee of things to come. The Spirit guarantees you will never be alone. Though you do not know the future–you are never alone as you face it.

The second guarantee is Christ Himself.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 ESV)

This is a classic greater to lesser argument. If God would give his most prized possession, will he not also give us every other lesser possession? If God will meet our greatest need, will he not also meet our lesser needs?

God the Father sent His Son.

On this Christmas day stop to thank God for sending His only Son…and giving you everything else you will ever need. Deep darkness dispelled. Light dispersed!

Enough For Today

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. (Exodus 16:4 ESV)

The people grumbled against God. They were hangry. Have you ever had a child who got angry when he got hungry? Israel did and God replied. His answer was a shower of bread, Fatz rolls raining down from heaven–Sister Schuberts descending from the sky (okay I’m getting carried away now). What’s interesting is that the raining down of bread was a test!  How was daily bread a test?

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. (Exodus 16:13-21 ESV)

God rained bread and they had enough for today. Whoever gathered much had nothing left over. Whoever gathered little had no lack. Why? God provided enough for today. Then they doubted. They doubted God’s ability to provide what they needed for that day. God clearly instructed them not to store it. Tomorrow a fresh rain of fresh bread would fall from heaven. When they stored some, it bred worms and stank!

Enter Jesus born in Bethlehem. Micah called Bethlehem as the birthplace (5:2). How fitting. Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Jesus was the bread of life:

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:30-35 ESV)

He is enough for today. Lean in on him this Christmas eve. He will give you all you need to get through the difficulties and joys of this day. And tomorrow morning he will be waiting when you wake up. With fresh bread of His presence in hand, he will feed you tomorrow.

He is enough for today.

His Way Is Right

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7 ESV)

Any respectable person watching CNN in Jesus’ day would have known who Caesar Augustus was. He followed the famous Julius Caesar and became emperor of Rome in 27 BC. For the next 41 years he led the massive Roman empire and established a peaceful kingdom. Though all self-respecting Israelites hated Roman oppression, they appreciated the peace Caesar Augustus brought.

Quirinius was a well-respected war hero. He worked his way up through the ranks becoming a mentor for Casear Augustus’ grandson. He excelled at every position he held eventually landing the position as governor of Syria, the province in northern Israel where Nazareth is located. He would have been a regular contributor to Fox News–an expert in Palestinian affairs.

The leading news story of Luke’s day was the census. Reporters would have camped along the dirt roads leading into Bethlehem and interviewed the travelers. Caesar Augustus and Quirinius ruled the day. No one would have known a young woman named Mary and her fiancé, Joseph. They were lost in the sea of weary travelers making the trek to their hometown to be counted.

However, 740 years earlier a prophet named Micah called this:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2 ESV)

Every news outlet in Jesus’ day missed the story. Caesar and Quirinius ruled the world and the day…or so they thought. But out of Bethlehem, too little to be among the clans of Judah, came the Ruler of all rulers. I am reminded again of John Oxenham’s poem:

He writes in characters too grand
For our short sight to understand;
We catch but broken strokes, and try
To fathom all the mystery
Of withered hopes, of death, of life,
The endless war, the useless strife,–
But there, with larger, clearer sight,
We shall see this–


His way is right when no one notices. His way is right when no one cares. His way is right when no one understands.

His way is right.

Presents or Presence?

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”  Judges 6:16 (ESV)

God promised Gideon His presence.

I know this is a goofy play on words, but it is true.  Often we seek God’s presents more than His presence.  We want what God can give us without a deep relationship with the God who can give us those things.  We seek solutions when God wants to give Himself.  We seek strategy before we seek Christ.  The result is a plan engineered by us–waiting for God’s stamp of approval.

God usually doesn’t work this way.

One reason is that we tend to foul things up when we plan and then invite God.  We operate from a limited perspective.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, we lose the opportunity to hang out with God.  We lose the opportunity to commune with Him.

Revelation 3:20 is a powerful invitation:  Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.  While this is often used in the context of unbelievers, it is really for wayward believers in the Laodicean church.   The thought of Jesus knocking on the door, not because He has a plan to change the world (which He does) but because He’d like to have dinner with you…or supper as we say in the south.  Wow!

Which are you seeking?



His Way Was Right

Timing is everything. Yogi Berra, former MLB player and coach, said, “You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.” According to Paul, Jesus’ birth was right on time. In Galatians he writes:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)

Scholars have identified several factors that made the arrival of Jesus and the spread of Christianity so timely. Check these out:

  • Pax Romana–Rome was a massive empire controlling most of the known world. While Palestine squirmed under Rome’s heavy hand at times, the reality is that Rome’s dominance created peace over most of the known world. This Roman peace paved the way for Jesus’ message and the ability of the Apostles to travel unhindered and spread the Christian message.
  • Developed roads–Because of a highly developed system of roads, the Gospel message could spread quickly and efficiently.
  • Common language–Greek had become the common language of the Roman empire, and it was a variety of Greek that was easy for the common person to understand and write. Language has always been critical to the spread of the Gospel. It was no different in the 1st century.
  • Anticipation by Israel–Rome’s heavy hand made Israel long for someone to step in and release them from oppression. While their view of a Messiah was very different from Jesus’ life and ministry, they were looking for the long awaited Messiah.

God’s timing is perfect.

Years ago I discovered John Oxenham’s poem (God’s Handwriting) and have returned to it many times:

He writes in characters too grand
For our short sight to understand;
We catch but broken strokes, and try
To fathom all the mystery
Of withered hopes, of death, of life,
The endless war, the useless strife,–
But there, with larger, clearer sight,
We shall see this–


Waiting: God’s University

Years have passed. Joseph is almost 40 years old. His dream that got him in such trouble has taken him from the pit, to Potiphar’s house, and to the prison. Now he is Prime Minister of Egypt. Perhaps he reflected on that dream so many years ago:

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. (Genesis 37:5-8 ESV)

Now, years later, they show up. He never realized his dream would come to fruition like this. He was no longer a smug teenager; he had become a responsible adult. His ego had long ago been checked by suffering and the harsh reality of responsibility. His brothers and father got hungry–so hungry that Jacob sent Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to get some food. When Joseph saw them he wept. As a matter of fact he sent them out of his presence so they couldn’t see him crying and his weeping could be heard throughout the palace.

As a teenager Joseph never saw the dream playing out like this. As a grown man he had a dilemma. Would he accept the ones who sold him into slavery? No doubt he had already forgiven them. Now he had the upper hand. Now he could make them serve him. Would all those years in Potiphar’s house resisting the advances of Potiphar’s wife now be avenged? He could make them pay for his forgotten years in the prison.

It’s funny how waiting on God often has more to do with preparing us for His plan for our lives than the actual plan itself. God will accomplish His purposes. We call that the sovereignty of God–His ultimate control over the course of human (and your personal) history. We spend much of our lives in training. There are some things God has for you that you simply cannot handle right now.

Waiting is God’s opportunity to refine you, to mold you into the man or woman He intends you to be. Your experiencing God in the waiting years enables you to handle the responsibility of the fulfillment of His plans. In case you feel alone, consider this list of “Who’s Who” in God’s story:

  • Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when Isaac was born.
  • Moses spent 40 years on the backside of the desert…and returned to Egypt at the young age of 80!
  • David was God’s anointed king–and ran from Saul for at least 7 years.
  • Paul the Apostle met Jesus on the Damascus Road and went into training for most likely 10 years before he ever preached!
  • And most profoundly, Jesus, the Son of God, was born to Mary and lived in obscurity for 30 years before performing his first miracle or preaching his first sermon. God in human flesh was the Christmas gift that wasn’t fully unwrapped for 30 years!

Waiting is the norm in God’s economy.

You may feel that you are in a holding pattern…that nothing significant is happening. You’re in good company. And God isn’t finished with you yet.

After Two Whole Years

After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile…

Two long years passed. His brothers had sold him. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him. The cupbearer forgot him. He waited. Then Pharaoh had a dream. Joseph didn’t know Pharaoh had a dream until Pharaoh sent for him. Genesis 41:14 recounts the events: Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.

I am convinced that all of Scripture is inspired by God and useful. I have often wondered why the writer included this detail. In a story with such high stakes, why would the writer talk about shaving and changing clothes. I am convinced that while the prison may have changed Joseph on the outside, it did nothing to affect him on the inside. Though Joseph had waited years for this moment, he didn’t rush into Pharaoh’s court. He shaved. He changed his clothes. And then he appeared before Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Isaiah 41:15-16)

This is Joseph’s moment of glory–and he deflects it to his God. The pit had not thwarted Joseph’s faith. False accusations did not derail Joseph’s resolve.  The prison had not not made Joseph bitter–he was better.

Joseph interpreted the dream. Pharaoh was blown away. He responded:

Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:39-43)

In one day Joseph moved from the prison to the palace. In one day Joseph transitioned from taking care of criminals (and being accused of being one himself), to saving a nation from starvation. For the next seven years Joseph led the people to grow and save grain and other produce. Because of the imminent famine, Egypt must be ready. Joseph was 30 years old when he became the Prime Minister of Egypt. Half of his young life had passed and his dream hadn’t been fulfilled. Now he could see the possible fulfillment of those long-ago dreams!

He married and had two boys. Their names reveal Joseph’s heart.

Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:51-52)

God saved Joseph so that Joseph could save a nation. Joseph saved a nation so that the nation could save his own brothers and dad. God preserved Joseph’s brothers because God promised Joseph’ great-great grandfather (Abraham) he would. While Joseph waited, he had no idea the great plan God was unfolding.

The cupbearer may have forgotten him but God hadn’t. HIs brothers may have tried to kill him, but God preserved him. Potiphar’s wife may have tried to seduce him, but God strengthened him.

God waited with Joseph.

Joseph waited on God.

His dream became a reality.


Wendy and I have had our fair share of waiting on doctors. Just this year Trent has seen five different doctors–we have waited in all kinds of doctor’s offices. Once we waited…and waited…and waited only to discover that they had forgotten we were there! They felt terrible. Sometimes despite people’s best intentions they forget you. Joseph was forgotten.

While Joseph was in prison the cupbearer and the baker showed up because they offended the Pharaoh. Joseph was appointed to take care of them. One night both of them had a dream. I love how Joseph responded to them the next day. Don’t miss this. Joseph is unfairly imprisoned. He has done nothing to deserve his sentence. Listen in on his conversation with the baker and the cupbearer:

When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” (Genesis 40:6-8 ESV)

Joseph, who could have been wallowing in self pity, noticed the troubled faces of his fellow inmates. Their dilemma? Dreams. The last thing Joseph wants to hear about is dreams. His dreams landed him in a pit, then Potiphar’s house, and now a prison. Why would he care about two foreigner’s dreams. But he did. He cared for them.

Not only did he care for them, he kept his faith in God. Do not interpretations belong to God? Joseph’s faith in God never faltered. In the midst of his unfair treatment, he trusted in a just God.

They told him their dreams. He interpreted them and then made a simple request of the cupbearer. Listen to his passionate plea:

In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.” (Genesis 40:13-15 ESV)

Note Joseph’s words: Only remember me. Please do me the kindness. Get me out of this house. I was stolen. I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit. Don’t ever think Joseph got used to his unfair treatment. Do not allow yourself to believe that Joseph was super spiritual and never felt the sting of rejection. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Joseph never wrestled the fear of abandonment. He never got used to the prison. He never grew accustomed to incarceration. He wanted out.

The cupbearer’s life was spared and he was restored to his former position with the Pharaoh. But what about Joseph?

Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Genesis 40:23 ESV)

Forgotten? God hasn’t forgotten you. Some estimate that Joseph stayed another two years in prison after his passionate plea to the cupbearer. Tomorrow we’ll see what happened when the Pharaoh sent for him.

God Waits With You

And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. (Genesis 39:20-23 ESV)

Joseph’s dreams have faded but his God hasn’t. Who would have thought that the road to God’s plan for His life would lead through a prison. But the LORD was with Joseph. Though Joseph didn’t have his dreams, He had God’s presence. Though Joseph was unfairly imprisoned, he was unconditionally loved. Though Joseph suffered unjustly, he worshiped unhindered. God showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. God went to prison with Joseph.

Quick question: If you had a choice of your plan without God’s presence or God’s presence without your plan, which would you choose? We’re quick to answer, “God’s plan, of course!” And when the rubber meets the road we question God’s timing, God’s involvement, God’s presence. We act as if God doesn’t know what He’s doing or why our lives are going the way they are.

God went to prison with Joseph. It is a helpful reminder that God went through your divorce with you. God endured the death of your loved one with you. God sat through chemotherapy with you. God was at the kitchen table when you sat there, heard your son scream profanities, and walk out.

And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. God was Joseph’s success.

Moses experienced this too. Israel had camped at Sinai and the time had come to leave. God instructed Moses to lead them to the Promised Land. Moses wanted to know who God was going to send with him. God’s answer to Moses may catch you by surprise:

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:14-16 ESV)

Moses didn’t want to leave unless God’s presence went with them. He’d rather stay in Sinai with God than live in the Promised Land without him! Why? Moses answers that question: Is it not in your going with us that makes us distinct?” What distinguished Israel was not their “Israelitishness.” What distinguished Israel was God’s presence.

And what makes you “you” is God’s presence.

God waits with you.