Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Surrender to the Sweetness

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ — the Message — have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives — words, actions, whatever — be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

(Colossians 3:15-17 The Message)

“This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee; more love to Thee, more love to Thee!”        -Elizabeth P. Prentiss (1818-1878)

Although we have not rung in the New Year, my mind is running ahead to make plans and goals for the next year. I have had a cold this week, and so I have had more time to sit and reflect. I often get frustrated when a cold breaks in upon my grand plans of thorough “house cleaning”. After Christmas, I want to get things in order in my home and my heart…get a fresh start.

But alas, this cold is holding me back, and all I do is meander around the house from my bed to the couch, and occasionally to the computer to check e-mail and Facebook. Today after some fruitless time trying to upload pictures, I finally made myself a cup of coffee, and I noticed on my Splenda packet these words: “Surrender to the Sweetness.” I smiled, as I knew instantly that it wasn’t just an ad on the packet, but a little reminder from my sweet Saviour to slow down…surrender and let His sweetness minister to me.

Maybe this crisis of a cold seems trivial, especially to some of my friends who are in the midst of some heartbreaking situations and trying times, but His invitation is the same, no matter how difficult of time we are having: “Cease striving, be still, my dear one, and surrender to the sweetness of my love. Remember, I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)

Yes, More love to Thee, O Christ, this is my new year’s plea!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas is Over, Now What?

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3 NIV)

The days between the opening of the gifts to the beginning of a new year seem awkward to me. What am I supposed to do with myself now? No more waiting and preparing. Just piles of cookies tempting me to eat them. Presents to put away. Time to regroup. I have no plan right now. I miss sitting and contemplating the beauty of Immanuel.

The last couple days I have been fighting a cold, so instead of reading and reflecting, I have been sleeping or watching television. I need a jumpstart to return to the discipline of solitude and prayer. The subtle invasion of apathy and neglect are luring me away from “sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

Why is it so easy to wander away after such a wonderful month of faithfully seeking His face? What has crept into my mind to make me think I will be okay without acknowledging my total dependence on God? Plain old laziness.

Create in me a pure heart, O God. And renew within me a steadfast spirit. Amen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

“Christ arrives. God enters creation as every human ever has—but though the way is common, it is God who takes that way tonight, so the birth is uncommon indeed, a crack in the universe, and the baby blazes with divinity.” -Walter Wangerin, Jr.

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7 NKJV

It has been tradition in our family to read the story of Christ’s birth on the eve of His arrival. With the lights of the Christmas tree setting the quiet scene, as we read through the account in Luke 2, pausing at certain places to sing a carol that echoes the narrative.

Our first Christmas Eve, we snuggled as a newlywed couple with wide-eyed wonder as we read and sang together. Maybe even imagining the day when we’d have a little one to swaddle and hold. Over time two little boys arrived into our home. The readings became less hushed, and more of a lesson in patience as parents who longed to pass along a tradition and our faith.

This year those little boys are young men, and we will read the story maybe together this morning as they come in for breakfast. Or maybe we will read it together tomorrow. Either way the joy of birth will invade our hearts once again. Amazing love, how can it be…?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joy Comes in the Morning

You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
(Psalm 16:11 NIV)

Why do I keep looking for lasting joy in experiences? While I do enjoy life, sometimes I think life owes me sunshine filled days and rosy relationships and everyone I love should live next door. I am missing my sisters who are scattered here and there. I miss my Dad whose birthday would be tomorrow, but he has passed on from this life about four years ago now.

Weeping may last for a night, and joy comes in the morning. I was reminded today that deep satisfying joy comes from God’s presence, and the presence He gives us through others. Yesterday I started out a little down, and by the end of the day I had been cheered by the simply delicious breakfast and some coffee brewed with a bit of cinnamon and topped off with eggnog (which I would never drink plain, but was good as a creamer in my coffee) and the company of two dear, sweet friends. We love just being together. Then I went and sat with a friend while she cleaned. Just being in the same house together encouraged both of us. She was motivated to tackle her house, and I got to read and relax, since I didn’t have to see the unfinished projects at my house.

Why not give some Presence this Christmas, along with the presents!

Monday, December 21, 2009


“Patience is inspired by mercy, devoid of condemnation, and evidence of the presence and power of our Holy God.” -Beth Moore

Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord — that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11 NKJV)

Did you ever notice that patience is related to hope? And hope inspires endurance. I hadn’t really thought of hope in these relationships before, until I opened my Bible Study this evening.

At the beginning of the semester, I wanted to stay engaged with God through His Word, so I picked up Beth Moore’s study called Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. I had left off on the chapter on patience. I had already filled up on love, joy and peace. Patience seems a timely fruit to munch on during this season of waiting.

 We have been on this journey towards the arrival of Jesus into our world, but since He has already come and returned to heaven, most of the journey has been a stroll down memory lane.

Once Christmas arrives, we begin our journey toward remembering the Cross. Jesus was our greatest example of endurance, hope and patience combined.

As we look with expectation to the unfolding of His return, we can be encouraged by the race he finished.

“… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 2 NKJV)

This hope is certain: One day we will see God face to face, if we believe in Jesus, the Savior of the World!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Soon and Very Soon

"I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have…" -Jesus 
(Revelation 3:11 NIV)

As the time for celebrating Christ’s first arrival approaches in less than five days, some weariness has settled over me. I feel a bit panicked, even though I have very little left to do to get ready. Have I done enough to get ready? I guess time will tell.

I have approached this year with less fanfare than usual, and everyone seems pretty content. My oldest son noted that I haven’t been as frantic, and he likes the pace we’ve had this year. So why am I second guessing this slowed down pace? Is something missing? Peace. Quiet. Assurance.

I think I loosened my grip on the central focus, not because I’m too busy, but out of neglect. I have let my week fill up with good things, but need to keep a hold on those holy, hushed moments in the presence of God. Listening for my own sake, and because God Almighty enjoys my presence as much as I enjoy His.

So let’s encourage each other as the Day approaches…to keep our eyes on Jesus!

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13 NIV)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

(Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

What promise are you clinging to today? Have you lost hope? Come to the spring of Living Water and be refreshed. Jesus is waiting for you and for me...

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Better Country

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
-Alan Jackson

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.
(Hebrews 11:13-17 NIV)

A longing that often surfaces in my heart during Advent is the ache for eternity—a longing for the place that Jesus has gone to prepare and promises to return one day and take us with Him forever.

Am I living in light of that promise, or have I started buying into the false hope of making a life for myself here on this earth. How do I live here as stranger, especially when everything here is so enticing and tangible and appears to offer a sense security?

I do not have any solid answers, except to kindle the longing by exposing myself to eternal venues like the Word of God, yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit, taking time to listen and converse with the Eternal One and worship in spirit and truth through song and service. And most of all to encourage others to do the same by reminding us to turn our eyes upon JESUS!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Speedy Delivery

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and your Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.

-from The Book of Common Prayer

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.
(Psalm 40:12 NIV)

I woke up early this morning with a mission to complete some gifts I was working on and send out the boxes before the post office closed today. This was finals week at school, and I hadn't much time to work on presents and such, so I needed to make this a speed delivery to bring joy to my sisters scattered here and there by Christmas.

Before I started, I took some time to read a devotion called Christmastide, a collection of prayers to be read certain hours of the day. It was compiled by Phyllis Tickle, an author who has put together several books like this in a series called Divine Hours. I have this hidden desire to be a monk cloistered away praying all day, so I find ways to incorporate their lifestyle into my hectic suburban existence, and this book helps me follow some of their form.

As I read the above prayer this morning, I was revving up my spiritual engines, pleading, “Yes, God stir up your power!” And then I had to take my foot off the accelerator, as I crumpled with my head on the steering wheel of my life, confessing “Oh how my sin does hinder.” But his grace and mercy lifted my head. Speedily, Jesus helped me recover my composure, then I went rejoicing along with thanksgiving for all that he has and will deliver me from.

The advent of the Savior what a blessed event!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


...behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

Matt 1:20-23   NKJV

What does behold mean? It seems to be from the language of angels and prophets. You don't find this phrasing in the newer translations of the Bible, but if you were brought up on Charlie Brown's Christmas you may remember hearing it in the famous lines of Linus, when he reads the Christmas story: "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11  KJV)

In the Bible this word is used as an imperative, an order to pay attention. When a prophet or angel says, "Behold!" our ears should perk up because an important message is being delivered. Stop in your tracks, look up from your hurrying and scurrying to get ready for Christmas. Listen! Hark, the Herald Angels Sing! A Proclamation has been made. I for one feel compelled to Fall on my Knees. Christ has come, so come let us adore Him. Put down that wrapping paper and listen, He is calling to you and to me, Sinner, come home!

Behold! See! Worship the Newborn King!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rejoicing with Mary

To you this night, is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This tender Child of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.

‘Tis Christ our God, who far on high
Hard heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your Salvation be,
Himself from sin will make you free.

-Martin Luther, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
(Luke 1:46-47 KJV)

In what ways will your soul magnify the Lord this season? Are you rejoicing? Or are you grieving? Maybe you are experiencing both. I often find myself one moment excited and giddy about the season of giving and enjoying each other’s presence. Other times I am sad that not everyone I love will be together, or that others are suffering and I cannot relieve them all. I can only offer a few coins in a Salvation Army bucket or a hug to a friend who is grieving. These seem so small, yet each gesture is a heartfelt desire to give more, to be there for others.

Mary did not have much to offer, except her womb. What an offering that was, and what joy we reap because she was willing. As we sing carols this season, let’s remember all those who prepared the way for the Savior to come into the world. Let’s rejoice that we can continue to spread the Good News to those who haven’t heard yet!

Monday, December 14, 2009

More Than "Only In Your Dreams"

I'm dreamin' tonight of a place I love
Even more then I usually do
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me…

-Gannon and Kent

There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to,
because the LORD your God has blessed you.
(Deuteronomy 12:7 NIV)

Every year when the familiar tune and refrain of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” plays on the radio I start crooning along, and before I know it the tears are streaming down my face. So many memories and feelings flood my heart. I miss my sisters who live scattered around. My heart longs for the Christmases I had with my Dad (Christmas Eve was his birthday). I reminisce about the early years when the boys still believed in and hoped for the magic of the season.

This year since I am busy with school, Christmas celebrations may come and go without much fanfare, and for the most part I am okay with less stress, but I miss some of the buzz that comes with preparing.

Mostly though I think the longing for home heightens my desire for Christ’s final return and the ushering in of things the way they were meant to be. A world without the tinge of brokenness that colors everything.

Sort of melancholy, but underneath is the hope that constantly pulses like a hidden stream. We can rejoice in the longing for His return. The presence of the Lord can be experienced now through the sweet lyrical voice of His Holy Spirit whispering in our ear, “I’ll be your home…abide in Me, and I will abide in you…I love you, my dear one…live well…I am coming soon to establish my eternal home.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Name Above All Names

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

-Joseph Mohr

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:9-11  NIV)

The refrain of the third verse of Silent Night caught my attention this morning, Jesus was Lord at his birth. Even as a newborn baby he was fulfilling God's destiny for his life. He came as promised. He would grow up into all that God planned for him to be.

At church, the past few Sundays, we have been focusing on the names that describe Jesus the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Such powerful and comforting names. The very character of God wrapped in swaddling cloths and delivered to earth to be our redeeming grace. What wondrous love is this!

If you love to know the deeper meaning of things I encourage you to listen to the sermons in the series called Hope has a Name at this link www.efree.org/resources/sermons/

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Good News

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matt 1:21 NKJV)

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
(Luke 1:31-33 NKJV)

What causes your heart to race with joy?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Importance of Watching

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

William Cowper

Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
(Luke 21:34-36 NIV)

In Luke 21, Jesus gives a discourse on the end of the age, a prophetic word about his second coming. The verses above are his exhortation to us to be ready for his return. The Message’s translation of the warnings of what our hearts can get weighed down with seemed appropriate, especially in light of the conversation about presents yesterday.

It says, “Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping.”

I am not saying to skip any of these holiday traditions, but let’s be aware of how too much of a good thing can dull our senses. I for one want to be fully present when Jesus returns, and I desire to worship Him in wholeness until He does return.

May His blessings spill upon your heads, and fill you very being with His warm embrace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Give Presence

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship,
for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
(Psalm 89:15 NLT)

“…worship without an awareness of Christ is impossible…For to behold Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to worship Him.”   -Judson Cornwall

At this time of year I love to think about presents. Not my wish list, but what presents I want to give. To me a tangible gift is an expression of love. Nowadays as the kids in my family are growing up I could make one stop at Walgreen’s and buy a bunch of gift cards. But that is so dissatisfying to me. I enjoy thinking about and finding that one thing that will give the receiver a lift, or say she thought about me.

Another gift that people often overlook is the gift of presence. Since I have been fairly occupied with school this semester, I have missed spending time with my family and friends, so my gifts this year may not come from a store, so much as just some time to be together. Taking a walk, grabbing a cup of coffee, sitting on the couch together watching a Christmas movie…these are the things I long to give this year.

Jesus modeled this gift the best. After all, He is Immanuel! I found a different translation, other than the familiar “God with Us”; it also means “With us is God”. Somehow that phrasing warms my heart.

I wanted to leave you with a website to check out, a pastor friend of ours recommended it, and I think you will enjoy its message and the ideas that lead us to a deeper advent experience. Check out http://www.adventconspiracy.com/

I hope you have many opportunities to give presence this Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Anticipation is Making Me Wait

The Hebrew word for expectation means “to lean forward, i.e. to peer into the distance; by implication, to observe, await” (Strong’s Concordance)

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3 NIV)

This time of year fills us with so many expectations. Some good and some stressful. I was reading a friend’s Facebook status tonight and she was lamenting how stressed she was, and asked the rhetorical question, “Why does this time of the year have to be so STRESSED?”

Earlier this year a friend of mine was discussing a strong sense of dread in her life. It occurred to us that this is a strategy of our soul’s enemy, that great deceiver, to rob us of joy. So instead of dread, we encouraged each other to ask God to replace our dread with expectation.

So if you are dreading the holiday season, take a moment to breathe, cease striving and remember that God is God, and he cares more about our presence than all the presents that we could ever buy or give.

Here is some advice from His word about the best gift we can offer Him:

“My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.”

Psalm 15:17 AMP

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Come to the Garden

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

-C. Austin Miles

Come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
and the sheep of His hand.

Psalm 95: 6-7 NASB

Did you know that in Latin there is a verb that means both to till and to worship? When I first came across this verb I was perplexed as how one word could mean both things. I know words can have multiple meanings, but I was intrigued by this particular verb.

As a full time student this semester, I have had less time to just sit and reflect. Over the years I have developed this habit of being, but it did not come naturally. I had to cultivate a taste for solitude. So in one of my desperate moments this autumn, I cried out for some connection with God as I trekked to the secular world each day.

On a certain day, the answer to my curiosity about the verb was delivered to me by my professor. My question was unknown to her, but God had heard my musings, and right there in the middle of class he arrived. We were translating a sentence with the word “colo” in it, and she said, “Do you know why this verb means to till and to worship?” I wanted to shout, “No, but please do tell us!”

To worship someone is to cultivate a relationship. In Roman times they worshipped to curry favor from the gods in order to have a great harvest. Well, my mind went directly to the LORD my Maker, and I rejoiced in this seeming trivia about a word that is now impacting my experience and understanding of worship.

When I worship the Savior, I am cultivating our relationship, not so much to gain favor, but to grow closer to Him, and his purposes for everything. So now when I sing a song at church, I am not just repeating the words or enjoying the melody, I am thinking about Him. This song is for you, LORD! I love you, Jesus! Worship is more than singing, I can also worship Him by daily giving my heart over to him anew and acknowledging our relationship.

I know it doesn’t seem like good weather for gardening, but why not do some cultivating along with your worship of the Savior this season, and see what kind of harvest He produces.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Watch and Pray

For Thee, since first the world was made,
So many hearts have watched and prayed;
The patriarchs’ and prophets’ throng
For Thee have hoped and waited long.

(A verse from We Sing, Emmanuel, Thy Praise written by Paul Gerhardt)

“Stay alert; be in prayer so you don't wander into temptation without even knowing you're in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."  (Matthew 26:41 The Message)

Have you ever had to stay up all night to guard something? When I was just out of high school, I had joined the Air Force and one of my duties during my enlistment was to take my turn as the “night guard” of the barracks. I remember that it was very difficult to keep alert all night long. I don’t know if I was so willing to do it, rather I was motivated by the fear that I would be disciplined if caught sleeping. The body is indeed weak, and I’m sure I nodded off a couple times during the night watches.

It is just as difficult to remain alert spiritually. We live constantly in a world infused with dark forces, and the best way to stay awake is to draw near to the Light. Prayer opens up our spiritual windows and lets the sunshine in. Being in prayer is being in His presence.

Also, singing His praise keeps me spiritually attentive. As I sings carols during Advent, I desire to let the words of each song carry me into His presence, and affirm Jesus’ great love for me, and in return express my adoration of Him.

O come, Let us adore Him!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV)

As I sang The First Noel at church today, I was remembering that Noel in everyday English translates to birth. In my mind as I sang the refrain I was thinking: “Birth, Birth, Birth, Birth.”

I was having a bit of a hard morning emotionally, and somehow that word of birth filled my heart with hope. When something is birthed newness arrives; of course, we know that a newborn baby becomes a new member of a family. But ideas can be birthed as well. And I needed some fresh thoughts to help me cope with my current struggle.

Later that morning, we read from Revelation 21 about the new order of things that God has planned when Christ returns. In that passage Jesus makes this remarkable promise: “I am making everything new!” Then Jesus told John to "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:5)

When life’s struggle seems to be getting old really fast, I need to remember this promise, and trust that the present work of Jesus is leading to the ultimate newness of life in eternity. No more death, no more tears, no more mourning, no more pain. Hallelujah!

I think I will go write that promise down on a sticky note, and post it on my dashboard to remind me of His faithfulness this week.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"
 And let him who hears say, "Come!"
And let him who thirsts come.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Revelation 22:17 NKJV

“…maranatha had become a familiar expression of Christian hope-a watchword of the imminent SECOND COMING of the Lord.” (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

During Advent it doesn’t take long before reminiscing about the first coming of Jesus leads to rejoicing in the truth that He has promised a second arrival. Four times in the book of Revelation the Lord Jesus proclaims, “I am coming soon!” This is the final statement of Jesus, and John’s response is a hearty: “Yes, Come, Lord Jesus!”

Does this promise of Jesus’ return cause dread or joy in my heart? Sometimes I do feel dread because I’m not sure I am ready. I am too invested in this life. I look forward to seeing my sons have families of their own. I want to dream about future adventures with my husband. I enjoy shopping and getting read for the holidays. I guess this is all natural.

So how can I cultivate joyful expectation in waiting for His promised return? Immerse myself is His presence. Cease striving. Pray without ceasing. Agree with the Holy Spirit. Abide in His Word.

Let's proclaim together the hopeful words: "Maranatha!" "Come, Lord Jesus, come!" Amen! Let it be so!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Answered Prayer?

“…God does not forget our prayers. It is in the fullness of time that he answers them. He answers in that rich kairos, when to answer at all does the most good for the most people!”

-Walter Wangerin, Jr.

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.
Luke 1:13-14 NIV

“Your prayer has been heard,” this proclamation to Zechariah must have been so comforting. Not really, it seemed to confuse him at first, and then provoke uncertainty. Really, he says, how can this be? He can see his circumstances. It was as if he was thinking, "This prayer should have been answered years ago. Are you kidding me?"

I am in a situation right now, where I am pretty sure God has answered my prayer, but the circumstances leave me wondering how this answer is going to end up for good. I wanted provision, and he has provided wilderness. I asked for protection, and the person I prayed for is precariously safe. I have asked for healing, and more pain pours down.

The true answer that God gave Zechariah and Elizabeth was not just a child, but grace, for that is what the name John means “the grace of the Lord.”

Is grace enough? It should be, but often I act like a spoiled child pouting until I get more. Will I trust in the gift of Advent- Immanuel- or will I keep selfishly demanding what I want instead of trusting God’s goodness? Am I patient enough to wait for an answer that “does the most good for the most people”?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holy, Holy, Holy

“Isn’t is a wonder…that the mere presence of the divine destroys our sinful selves and all we thought defined us, but that the Word of the divine consoles us, relieves us, forgives us, and raises us up again?"    -Walter Wangerin, Jr

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14 NKJV)

This morning I was ushered into the trembling glory of the Lord through Zechariah’s encounter with the LORD when he was offering the evening incense. I marvel at how another person’s story can move me, especially when told by a seasoned storyteller like Walter Wangerin, Jr. He sets the backdrop of all the time leading up to this moment in Zechariah’s life, carrying us along with expectation to the unexpected encounter with the glory of God. This scene is even more poignant when you think that God had been silent for 400 years up to this point in Israel’s history.

The first words spoken through God’s messenger were “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 1:13 NIV) Words of comfort, calling him by name and answering a long sought after desire.

Just at the right moment, God reveals himself to us. And as we revisit the Christmas story this year, let us not miss the fact that divinity intersects humanity in a way only God could imagine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kairos: Opportune or Seasonable Time

“Every present moment is well-rooted in the past…. God, you see, is God of history: weaving its past and its future together; designing the times by overseeing the intricate patterns of human events; granting meaning to the whole of humankind, and thereby making any single moment, also, incandescent with meaning.” -excerpt from Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin, Jr

For Jesus doesn't change —
yesterday, today, tomorrow,
he's always totally himself.

Hebrews 13:8 The Message

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate a holiday year after year? What is it in the remembering that comforts us or brings us joy? As we approach Christmas, we pull out our traditions and our favorite cookie recipes. We gather those around us that we love, those we desire to share moments of awe and peace.

From a spiritual perspective, I enjoy revisiting the story of Christ’s birth because it reminds me that He doesn’t change. As The Message puts is “he’s always totally himself.” I love that phrasing, and as my family grows up,the boys are 19 and 21 now, traditions are changing and some decorations remain in the attic, but the truth of God with us never changes.

Let’s cling to His unfailing, unchanging love this season.

Earlier this year Finlay Fields, a band that our son drums with, wrote a song about the never changingness of Christ. Click on the band name to check out the song titled: All You’ve Done

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What We Know

The word advent is derived from the Latin adventus, which means "the approach" or " the arrival." The verb is advenio: "I arrive. I come. I am coming." -Walter Wangerin, Jr.

"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

Psalm 46:10 NASB

As we enter the Advent season, I want to take time every day to reflect on the amazing fact that God Almighty has arrived among us, and makes Himself known.

Sometimes I get bogged down with doubts and fears. When I feel that way, the best place to go is God’s word. The recorded Scriptures lead me back to truths that I can depend upon. A couple weeks ago, I came across the repeated phrase “we know” in I John 4. Those two words boosted my faith. I do know some things, and I can count on what we know.

The first assertion that caught my attention was this: “…we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16 NIV) Not only can we know God’s love for us, we can rely on it! If you go back and read the whole chapter, this statement summarizes John’s assertions about God’s love. The other thing we can know is this: “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13 NIV)

We know that God loves us. We know that we are partakers of His Spirit through Jesus Christ. We know that we can come to Him boldly with our requests. Let’s walk in that knowledge today.