Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Offering All

In response to the people crying out to God, He promises to send a messenger.  The people are asking God to end the oppression and injustices they are enduring.  In their hearts they probably want God to swoop in and destroy their enemies.  How hard it is to look within.  How hard it is to see that we are often the cause of our own struggles.

God knows the true root of the problem so instead of sending a powerful king or a legion of angels, He tells Malachi that He will send a refiner.  God is sending a messenger who will purify the hearts of the people.  This messenger will use the refiner’s fire and the launderer’s soap to cleanse the people of their sin.  God even poses the question, “Who will stand?”  It will be an ordeal for the people.

I love this text as we begin Advent.  As we prepare for and pray for the coming of Jesus, I think we do so too often with the misconception that we ourselves are ready.  It is fine for God to come and refine all those other people so they are adequately prepared for Advent.  We want to think we are okay.  How we hate to look within.

The refiner’s fire and the advent of God;s righteousness will touch us all.  How clean are we willing to make ourselves?  How much of self are we willing to lay aside so we are truly ready to welcome Jesus at Advent and into our hearts?  He only refines what we offer up.  He only enters through the door we open.  This Advent season may we offer all we have to our Lord and Savior.

Scripture reference: Malachi 3: 1-4

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The True Light

One cannot read passages such as today’s and not think that, yes, the world is in pretty bad shape.  One can look at all of the disasters and evil befalling the world and think maybe the end is drawing near.  Maybe it is drawing near.  As we look at our world it can be easy to feel powerless and maybe even a little hopeless.  Some of the issues are so big and we are so small.  Indeed, if it were up to just us to save the world, we would be in trouble.  But it is not up to us.  It is up to God and He calls on us to help.

At the end of today’s passage, Jesus tells us where to start: with ourselves.  He warns us to be careful, to be ready, and to be on watch.  In Christmas terms we are to prepare our hearts and to call out ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel.’  As we enter Advent today we do so with the feeling that something is coming.  We prepare ourselves to celebrate Christ’s birth and to anticipate His return.  We also prepare ourselves to be His light and love in our world each and every day.

Christ’s love must shine brightly in our hearts.  It must be brighter and more joyful than all the Christmas lights, fancy jingles, and hoopla.  As Christ’s ambassadors we must joyfully share the hope and love we find in Jesus Christ.  In our dark world, hope and love will go a long way.  The world is broken and needs to be reconciled to Jesus.  This Advent season may we play our role in helping God’s love and hope shine in the darkness.  May we help reveal the true Light of Christmas to the world.

Scripture reference: Luke 21: 25-36

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Times of Gathering

Advent is a time of gathering together.  To grow and develop in our faith we need the love and support of one another.  Without being intentional about being a community of faith, it can be easier to drift away from our faith.  In this season it can be easy to get caught up in the commercial side of Christmas.  Gathering together as a Christian community of faith reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas.

There are many ways to gather.  A group could gather to decorate the church or the homeof an elderly member.  A group could meet to bake holiday cookies and then go deliver them to a homebound member or to a nursing home.  A group could form and go sing Christmas carols at the jail or at a group home.  A group could gather once a week before school or work to study an Advent devotional.  A family could use an Advent calendar and pray together each day.  There are many ways to gather together to celebrate and share our faith.

Each of these practices are ways to connect us to our faith and to share that faith with others.  Each is a tangible way to be a witness to Christ’s love in our world.  In this holy season we live between what we know Christ did for us already and in the hopeof Christ coming again.  While our eternal hope rests secure in Christ’s resurrection power, we still long for His return when He will make all things new.  May we find ways to share the love of Christ with those in our lives so that they too may come to know the true meaning of Christmas.

Scripture reference: 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13

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Prepare Him Room

One Christmas carol sings, “let every heart prepare him room.”  This is the essence of Advent – to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus.  Throughout these four weeks we seek to welcome Christ, our Emmanuel.

Today is Black Friday.  The spirit of today is pretty much the opposite of the spirit of Christmas.  Where Christmas is about giving and loving, today is too often about taking and getting.  People do things today that they would not normally do – get up really early, stand in long lines, rush and battle to get by the next guy, and sometimes become rude and obnoxious to secure that super special bargain.  And in some ways these two events are also similar.  There is excitement and anticipation in the air.  One is often there to get a gift for someone else.

In today’s passage Paul prays for God to increase, bless, and strengthen their love for one another.  It is through this love that they grow to share God’s love with others.  He knew that the more they loved, the more others would come to know God’s love as well.  Paul also knew that this pattern of loving others would deepen the Thessalonian’s faith too.

As we seek to prepare our hearts this Advent season, may we also do so by finding ways to love others more deeply.  Maybe that is by including someone on the fringe in your gathering or outing.  Maybe that it is by bringing some food to the neighbor or friend who is struggling.  Maybe it is by visiting the widow inthe nursing home.  Maybe it is by volunteering to ring a bell.  When we do these things, all of heaven and earth sing.  When we do these things we bring honor and glory to our King.  May Jesus Emmanuel, God with us, lead us to share His love this Advent season!

Scripture reference: 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13

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Thank You God

Thank you God!  Today is a day when we give thanks to God for His many blessings.  We are grateful to be with friends and family and to gather together in fellowship over the meal.  We are thankful for all of our material and physical blessings as well – for job and home and other possessions.  We are richly blessed and it is good to give thanks to our provider.

We are most deeply blessed, though, by our relationship with the living God.  In God we find our Savior and our hope.  Like Job, all we have can fall away, yet we can still count ourselves blessed because we know God and God knows us.  Although hard times will come, we can trust in God in the midst of and through these difficulties.  God is faithful and true.

I am most thankful for His love and mercy.  In my humanity I stumble and I sin.  In these times my love for God fails.  But His love never fails.  In these times, when I repent and seek God again, His mercies flow down upon me like a powerful rain, washing me clean, making me new, drawing me back into that relationship again.  Thank you God.

Scripture reference: Psalm 25: 1-10

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God’s Presence and Promise

Jeremiah was writing from a prison cell.  At times he must have felt like the situation was hopeless.  Yet in the midst of this bad situation, he heard God’s promise to send a just and righteous ruler to lead Israel.  In his time of trial, God brought Jeremiah a word of hope.

As Advent nears, our longing builds for the coming of Christ, which we celebrate on Christmas Eve.  Advent calendars count down the days for children and visions of school vacation and presents dance in their heads.  To be honest, as adults we looked at the vacation schedule long ago as we too anticipate some time off.  But it is also undeniable that as we wait, in Advent, the longing builds within us for the night to arrive when we all gather together, when we sing the familiar songs, and when we celebrate our Lord and Savior’s birth.

While almost all have a sense of waiting, many feel this sense of longing as well.  But for some, there is also a sadness hanging over this season of joy and hope and love.  If within the last year trauma or loss has occurred, then the Advent season brings struggle as well.  If it is the first Christmas after the loss of a loved one or after a divorce or job loss or after a serious illness, then there is pain, grief, and hurt as well.  In these times and with these emotions, God can feel distant.  It is important for those struggling to be reminded of God’s presence and His promises.

For some battling these sad emotions, they can connect to God and find hope and love and peace.  For those that are struggling may we be aware and may we find ways to come alongside them and to bring God’s presence and promises to life through our words, actions, and presence.

Scripture reference: Jeremiah 33: 14-17

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This King

Jeremiah warned the people of the coming doom brought on by their choices.  Their wandering and lack of trust in God’s power and might brought destruction and exile in Babylon.  Jeremiah also planted hope in them: in time the people would return home and find healing and forgiveness.  God is certainly a God whose love never fails.

In Advent we often abandon our wandering ways and again seek to draw close to God.  As we prayerfully wait to celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior, we wait with hope and expectation.  We prepare ourselves for His arrival through a little extra study and prayer so that our heart and soul will be prepared to receive our King.

Jeremiah gave voice to God’s promise to the people headed into exile.  God promised to raise a new branch out of David’s line.  As impending doom lay on the horizon, how distant the glory days of King David must have seemed!  I imagine some even hoped God would intervene with this kind and turn away the Babylonians.  But this new King would be a King of peace and love, not power and might in earthly terms.

This future King would be called the “Lord Our Righteousness”.  This King would be rule with peace, love, and justice.  This new King would deliver and redeem the people not from worldly empires but from the power of sin and death.  This new King would bring lasting peace within all who call on Him as Lord and Savior.  We know this King.  We await this King.  We welcome this King.  As Advent nears, we draw close, we connect to Him again, and we say, ” Come Lord Jesus, come.”

Scripture reference: Jeremiah 33: 14-16

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Time to Prepare

Today’s passage speaks of one of the basic yet most important beliefs of our faith: one day Jesus will return.  In the days right after His resurrection, the disciples all thought His return was imminent.  But as time went by and the disciples’ earthly lives came to a close, the idea of ‘one day’ Jesus will return took on more of a ‘some day’ feel.  Although we are warned that Jesus’ return will be quick and sudden – like a theif in the night – we really do not live a day-to-day faith that reflects this.

With Thanksgiving just a few days away many are gearing up for it.  There are menus to be planned, guest lists to be finalized, things to be prepared, and rooms to be cleaned!  There is a very specific date, very close, so there is some urgency to it all.  And then Friday will be here and that will signal the start of the season to get ready for Christmas.  All we did for Thanksgivign will be repeated plus we will shop for gifts for our friends and loved ones.

Oh ya!  And Advent starts this Sunday.  This too is its own season.  This too is a season in which we prepare for something – the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In a way it is much easier than Thanksgiving or Christmas to prepare for.  It the personal season in which we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  All it takes is a little time and a book or devotional or online resource to focus in on Advent and what the coming of Christ means to our Christian faith.

The time for Jesus’ return is unknown.  Advent is coming Sunday.  It is not quite here, so there is a little time to get ready yet.  May we each choose to carve out a little extra time to prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of the King of Kings.

Scripture reference: Luke 21: 25-36

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A Love to Share

Our minds are capable of learning many things.  In school and in church we are taught a lot.  While in school we aretaught what is factually correct, in church we learn about what is true: Jesus.

In repsonse to Pilate’s questions about what truth is, Jesus responds, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  In His answer Jesus implies that there is a relationship or connection between people who know the truth and Jesus himself.  In order to know the truth, we must listen to Jesus and come to know Him.

We listen and learn by being in contact with the teacher.  Through the written Word of the Bible, through the Word spoken in church, through time in prayer, and through fasting we seek to learn about and grow in Jesus.  Our learning and connection to Jesus is in direct proportion to the effort we choose to put in and to the amount of time we spend with Him.  For example, if all we are willing to give is one hour on Sunday morning then our connection and understanding is less than it could be.  On the other hand, if we also choose to spend time in the Word and prayer each day, what we know as truth will be greater.

As we come to know Jesus more and more, what the truth is becomes clearer and clearer.  As we grow in our love of God, it start to spill out into love of all of God’s children.  This love we share with Jesus becomes a love we share with all we meet.  As we grow into Jesus, our lives are transformed by His truth.  Jesus seeks to transform us so that we become His love poured out daily to all we meet.  This day may His love radiate from us and through us in all we do and may it flow out to all we meet.

Scripture reference: John 18: 33-38

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Disciple: Love

The crowds wanted Jesus to be an earthly King.  The disciples thought they wanted Jesus to be an earthly King.  Those in authority feared Jesus would become an earthly King.  Sometimes I wish Jesus were an earthly King.  But He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Maybe a better way to look at it is His kingdom is IN the world but not OF this world.  The new command He gave was to love one another.  He went on to explain that people would identify His disciples, those in His ‘army’, by the way they radically loved others.  We are commanded to love one another in this world.  But the love is not earthly love.  It is a love that come from Jesus.  He first loved us and calls us to go out and share His love with others.

Jesus’ kingdom is based on His love with a good dose of forgiveness and reconciliation thrown in.  Jesus knew the normal world operated on violence, coercion, force, power, might.  So in living in this world, He knew His disciples would have to back that love up with forgiveness and reconciliation.  A Christian’s mode of operation and response to the world is based on love.  Love can overcome all things, including violence, coercion, …

God invites us to live from His kingdom’s view.  He commands us to love one another.  And as a ‘reward’ He says the world will know we are Christians by our love.  It is an identifier.  It is a choice that makes some wonder what we’ve got, what makes us so different from the world.  May we make many curious today!

Scripture reference: John 18: 33-37