Advent begins today. The scripture passage from Mark is about being awake and alert. It is a call to be aware of God and His presence in our world. There is a danger in simply going through the motions of life. There is an equal danger in choosing to live life for self.
Advent is a time of waiting and watching for the work of God in our worlds. We wait and watch with expectancy – sure that He is present among us. We live in the belief that we are all God’s children. Therefore we all have equal right and access to His presence.
There is an implication to that though. Not all truly have equal access. Not all know Christ and all He offers to each of us. Part of our call as Christians is to share the good news and teachings of Jesus Christ so that they too can join in the family. Part of our call is to provide access by removing barriers such as economic limitations and other injustices. All are called to live as children of the light.
This Advent season, may we be alert and awake to all God has to offer. May we walk fully as children of the light bringing love, mercy, and justice to all so that all may enter into the holiness of this Advent season.
Scripture reference: Mark 13: 24-37
Mark 13 has some apocalyptic writing. In verses 24-37 Jesus is speaking of the time when He will return in glory. This type of writing is fascinating to me. Personally I do not read too much into it. Some people do and sadly their focus often becomes the doom and gloom aspects and they see only the doubt, fear, and despair. I prefer just the facts.
First fact – Jesus is returning. Yeah! Second fact – there will be signs in the natural world that the time is at hand. These things will scare some people but others will gaze heavenward with joyous expectation. Third fact – no one knows the time for Jesus’ return except God the Father. This fact is the most imminent and the one with the most application for our daily lives.
Because the hour is unknown we are called as Christians to b alert and ready at all times. We are to live daily with faith, love, and hope always on our hearts, souls, and minds. These things should flow through and be visible in our daily decisions, choices, and actions. We are called to love our God and neighbor like they really are the most important things in our lives. When we live each day for God, we do not live in despair and fear but in joy and hope. There’s no place I’d rather be!
Scripture reference: Mark 13: 24-37
Grace and peace to you! Paul’s standard salutation speaks of two of the most important attributes of being in the family of God.
From the Christian perspective, grace means “unmerited favor.” It is the forgiveness of sins that we cannot earn. It is the free gift of Jesus Christ to all who call on His name. It is the power to save us and to bring us back before God, cleansed and made new.
Grace also meant an “arresting vision of beauty” to the Greeks. And isn’t Christ on the cross just that? In some ways arresting to visualize His broken and bloodied body hanging there yet also amazingly beautiful to realize what He did for you and me.
Peace is also a gift from God. That sense of wholeness in life and that all is right in His kingdom enriches our lives here. This gift also removes competition from our equations and allows us to respond to others with love. We spread peace with love.
Peace and grace to you! These gifts are always offered to bless our lives and the lives of those we encounter. God is faithful. Our reality is that He brings us an unending supply of grace and peace. And our reality is that the more we share these gifts with others, the more comes back to us as well. Grace and peace to you!
Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
“God loves a cheerful giver.” This is true. It is not true because it puts money in the church coffers. It is true because of the spirit it instills in us. When we are willing to be abundant without strings attached and with no expectations involved, then we are truly giving as God gives.
When we are willing to be generous with all that God blesses us with, we see things as God’s and not as ours. He owns everything we have. If that is the perspective from which we operate, then we are so much more willing to give to others.
As Advent nears and Thanksgiving Day dawns, can you feel the call to slow down and focus on the things and ways of God? Do you feel the call to be generous instead of greedy? Do you feel the urge to give thanks and to express your gratitude by blessing others as well? May our lives reflect God’s way of loving generously and freely!
Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15
Where are you God?! That is the cry of Israel in Psalm 80. Catastrophe has struck and, therefore, they question where God is. Surely He is not present, or this would have never happened. Been there before?
In the midst of tragedy the Israelites beg God to turn His face to them and to shine on them. Once God looks on His people, He will see their hardship and He will restore them. He will stop the suffering at the hands of their foe. Ever sought this?
Verse 17 asks God to let His hand ‘rest upon the son of man’, the one He raised up. If so, the promise is they will not turn away but will call on His name – after God revives them. A familiar if-then bargain! Sound familiar?
The relationship we are called to is 24-7-365. It is the same in the good and in the bad and everything in between. God is always present to us. His love and mercy are always available. Make it yours each day.
Scripture reference: Psalm 80: 1-7 and 17-19
Change is hard and forced change is even harder. In times of change we feel uncertain and emotions can rule the day. Sometimes we wish we could just go back to the way thing were or we wish we could just disappear. When it gets bad and we realize that we cannot handle it anymore on our own, we turn to God.
Change feels threatening and makes our world feel unstable. We like routine and to feel secure. All of us like someone by our side in times of stress and God fits the bill perfectly. He wants to bring us peace, comfort, strength, presence.
In the midst of change we often seek someone else to blame. (It is like this when we sin too!) When our situation doesn’t improve, we can really blame God and others. It is hard to point the finger in the mirror. Yet when we can manage to step away for a moment and to draw a breath in, then we can begin to trust into our God who so desires to be in relationship, who so desires to pour love and guidance into our lives. Change can be big and scary, but God is bigger and stronger.
Scripture reference: Isaiah 64: 1-9
Do you feel blessed by God? Sometimes that is a hard question to answer. Maybe in some ways one feels blessed while in other ways, not so much. Life naturally brings is hard moments when it is hard to see God’s blessings. Yet, in the big picture, we are so blessed by God in so many ways. We are indeed blessed.
In Psalm 65, David reminds us that those God chooses are blessed by the things of His temple. We too have the opportunity for these blessings. Each Sunday is a chance to receive God’s blessings, poured out in song, prayer, and word.
David also reminds us of another of God’s blessings. In verse five we are reminded that God is the “hope of all the ends of the earth.” Or hope lies in Christ and the power over death that He won on the cross. By the blood of the Lamb, God offers us the forgiveness of our sins. What a blessing indeed!
God blesses each of us in so many ways. In ways large and small, He provides. For all of His blessings, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, I am thankful. This day may we shout for joy and sing as an offering of our thanksgiving to our Lord God Almighty!
Scripture reference: Psalm 65
Psalm 100 is a wonderful psalm. It is a psalm of great thanksgiving and of God’s eternity. It is like that beautiful sunset that just takes your breath away and makes you stop for a few moments.
Our lives can get so busy. It is important to find moments like the sunset, for it is here that we can connect deeply with God. It is in that sacred space that we can “worship the Lord with gladness and come before Him with joyful songs.”
The psalm also reminds us that we are the sheep of His pasture. In the whirl of life, it is good to know that He is watching over us and that He guides and protects us. It’s good to stop now and then to remember how great God’s love is for us.
Psalm 100 closes with a promise – the Lord is good and his love endures forever. He is faithful through all generations. May today be a sabbath day where we can find a space to rest into God and to connect to His beauty, majesty, and love.
Scripture reference: Psalm 100
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, the sheep are almost unaware of all the times that they helped another in need. The acts of sharing love and offering care were just such a natural part of their lives that they didn’t notice how often they were in ministry to others. I can almost seeing the lightbulb going off as they realized how much they had come to be like Jesus.
For many of us, it can be hard to help someone else as an equal. The danger is in wanting to think how good we are for helping someone who is less fortunate that ourselves. It is so important to avoid the power relationship that we can so easily perceive. Jesus met each person right where they were at and offered what He could then and there. We are called to do the same.
When we encounter someone in need, the attitude we choose makes such a difference. To offer empathy and understanding and encouragement, to give purely out of love, is what is expected. If we can empower them as well, all the better. Often a person wants to offer something and maybe it is as simple as sweeping the walk. Maybe it is offering them a gift card to a store instead of showing up with a bag full of clothes and toys that you thought their children would like. Either way, when we approach the situation as Jesus would, then we are starting with a good heart and pure motives. Trust Him to guide you from there!
Scripture reference: Matthew 25: 31-46
In my current church setting, we are a ‘downtown church.’ Those in need call and stop in on a fairly regular basis. Our outreach center next door does a wonderful job meeting needs and providing services. There and at the church itself we meet people and form relationships with some. It is a neat thing to see those relationships grow and develop.
One of the realities is that the poor – both financially and in spirit – are near every church. It could be the family down the street or gravel road. Maybe the dad lost his job and they are struggling to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Maybe the weather wasn’t so good this year and the crop just did not pan out like they had hoped. We just don’t know unless we are involved and engaged in the world around us. Teresa of Avila said, “Yours are the eyes with which Christ looks with compassion on this world.” None of us has to look to far to find someone in need of a little compassion.
Oh for a few million dollars! The reality is that we cannot help everyone and fund every need. We cover a rent when we can, give out food or warm clothes when we can, and so on. Once in a while we are blessed when we can meet a holy need too. So we go on, as John Wesley said, doing all the good we can in all situations we can when we can. May we each be blessed with a ‘can do’ moment today!
Scripture reference: Matthew 25: 31-46