Battles are won in the trenches, in the grit and grime of courageous determination; they are won day by day in the arena of life. -Charles R. Swindoll
Today was "trenches" day. Several battles happening - local, state, and federal. Everywhere I turned someone was ringing the alarm bell and telling me time was running out and my particpation was mandatory! The battle was critical and we had to fight harder. That's fine for about 4 hours but once I hit 8 hours I was getting pretty spent.
The good news is that is about the time that I started getting positive feedback that people were going and voting. That they were indeed sending emails and calling our reps to be heard on an issue. Many texts from my precinct telling me thanks for reminding them to vote.
We can all pour ourselves out for the things we believe in and for those causes which God calls us to, but we can get empty if we don't find a little encouraging nourishment. Just a little sign, Lord, that all is not in vain. Thank you, Father!
God of Glory, thank You once again for the challenges You set before me in Your Word. With amazing accounts like Joseph and Paul, how can I complain when I think I am facing evildoers? Your mercy overwhelms me, when sometimes what I want to see is your judgment. Your Word also reminds me that the scales of Your justice will balance in the end, and the day will come when all will bow before You. Let me be satisfied in the knowledge that I am Your child. Strengthen my faith, I pray; let me see how You are at work. I acknowledge Your sovereignty over all things. Blessed be Your Name, Amen.
ADVENT DAY 6 -True Knowledge
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
I beg and beesech you, Lord: grant to all who have gone astray a true knowledge of you, so that each and every one may come to know your glory. –St. Isaac the Syrian
In keeping with St. Paul’s words in Romans 12, Christians in every age are invited to be “transformed by the renewing of the mind.” Yet as people who live this side of the printing press, not to mention the internet or the iPhone, how are we to understand these ancient words when endless mental
stimulation and information lies just a few swipes or clicks away? While the mind can and should be renewed, it must never be isolated from the holistic transformation of being that is envisioned in and through the Incarnation.
Jesus took on the fullness of humanity so that humanity in its fullness might be re-deemed. We must never forget, God wants to be known! As the Psalms remind us today, though we have all gone astray and live in self-made exile, our Lord in his kindness speaks to us and makes us able to hear (Ps. 85:8). True knowledge of God is never the abstract acquisition of facts but is an embodied encounter with the living Christ.
Cliché as it may sound, we must remember that it is possible to live with a wealth of information about God without ever encountering his living presence. Faith must never be reduced to a mental pursuit. Advent teaches us that God loves his creatures in our creatureliness, so much so that he takes human nature upon himself. Every sense given to you is a gift from God that is able to lead you closer to him as you journey from this life into glory.
The law was but a shadow of the good things to come. – Hebrews 10:1
Did you ever make shadow figures on the wall as a child? By placing your hands in front of a light, you could turn them into bunnies or alligators or dogs or whatever else your imagination could think of. But those shadows couldn’t show you everything. They couldn’t show you the bunny’s soft fur or the alligator’s scary teeth because they were just that – shadows of the real thing.
In the same way, the law in the Old Testament served as a shadow of what was to come for God’s people. This was not a bad thing, as shadows can still tell you a lot about something. A shadow can show you an outline and figure of something, but it can’t give you an exact picture. It’s a good place to start, but it’s not the main substance. The law in the Old Testament served as an outline of what was to come with Jesus.
The law that the Jews followed was not in itself bad or evil, but it was incomplete and unable to provide total salvation from sin. The only thing that would be able to do that was Jesus. He was the true picture of God’s grace and love for His children. That’s why Christmas is so special. Jesus’ coming to Earth finally revealed what had only been shadow before.
The Israelites waited years and years to get out of the shadows. You don’t have to be like them. You have already received the full picture of who God is through the work of Jesus on Earth. Praise God for that today, and know that He is not finished working.
Hold up the Light - a good short read!
Holy God, Darkness does indeed cover much of the Earth today. The Light You have given us in Jesus seems to have been purposely dimmed by many in America. It is easy to get discouraged. You have not left the world without a witness, and I thank You for redeeming me through Jesus Christ. Be with me as I stand for You and for Light to the darkness, according to Your will for me, for I ask it in the Name of my Savior, Amen.
ADVENT DAY 5 - Let Us Return
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
Repentance itself is nothing but a kind of circling: to turn to the One by re-pentance from whom, by sin, we have turned away. –Lancelot Andrewes
To live as a Christian, one must learn to be comfortable with tension. Though it is not as simple as we might prefer, wisdom is found in holding seemingly contradictory ideas in proximity to one another. Take, for example, the ancient words given to us today from Hosea 6: “Come, let us return to the LORD.” Within this single phrase we are confronted with the reality of our own initiative and responsibility to tend to our life with God, as well as the fact that any genuine return to God is first made possible by his movement towards us.
In Advent, as our Lord draws near, we must actively examine the condition of our lives. Are we ready to greet him upon his arrival? In this way, repentance always lies at the heart of faithful preparation. To repent is to not only to feel sorrow over the effect of sin in your heart and life, but it is equally an act of the will, purposefully turning away from sin and death and taking on habits that lead us into places of peace.
You can passionately pursue God without falling into the trap of anxious toil or self-assured living. In fact, the Incarnation of God is the end of all striving. As we “press on to know the LORD” (Hos. 6:3), we do so knowing that it is God in Christ Jesus who heals us, raises us up, and makes us whole. Advent reminds us that we have work to do, inviting us to take seriously the call to holy and faithful living. Yet this way of life is not of our making, but is a gift to be received, like spring rain that falls to water the parched earth.
With endurance comes encouragement
Romans 15:4 – For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
As you look across the present year, has your response been peace and joy? Has hope for tomorrow been elusive? Has your patience taken a tumble? Does it feel like your stamina sat down and won’t get up? Perhaps you have faced challenges that have made you wonder just how much God cares for you. You wouldn’t be alone. You are looking for endurance.
In the first chapter of James, you read that the testing of your faith is what produces endurance. All through the Scriptures are overflowing promises of God’s love, forgiveness, salvation, peace, hope and joy for everyone who trusts in His Son, Jesus. Hebrews 10:35-36 reminds you that there is a reward ahead if you keep hold of your confidence in the Lord, and endure. There are many verses that suggest that endurance is a quality of a mature Christian, one who has experienced afflictions and trials, whose life hasn’t been a “bed of roses.” Look again at today’s verse: the recipe for your endurance is there…it is found in the Word of God. Your time in Scripture and looking to Jesus are the foundations for endurance that brings encouragement and that leads to hope.
Dear Father, once again I confess to You that I have allowed my focus to shift on the things that are around me rather than You and Your love. Thank You for Your Holy Word and the comfort and encouragement I can glean from it as I read. Thank You that I can approach Your Throne and have this conversation with You. I’m almost afraid to pray for endurance because it is certain that there will be challenges to face in order to secure it; but I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me. Have Your will with me, for I trust in You. Amen.
ADVENT DAY 4 - Humble Glory
Read or listen to:
A sublime being entering into a relationship with such a lowly being does no harm to his own reputation, yet raises that other being up from its lowness: this is precisely what was fulfilled in Christ. He did not diminish his divine nature in any way by this lowering of himself, yet we who had been living in darkness and disgrace were raised up to ineffable glory. –St. John Chrysostom
At the heart of the Christian faith lies the belief that God sees, loves, and welcomes the forgotten, the marginalized, and the downhearted. In a world
that values and celebrates the strong and powerful, time and time again, in word and deed, Jesus reminds us that weakness and humility are the way to glory and the path of lasting peace. In this way, Advent is a persistent reminder of the upside down nature of God’s kingdom.
The lowliness of the Incarnation was foretold long ago. As Micah reminds us, it is from Bethlehem, “one of the little clans of Judah,” that the true king of Israel will come, one who “shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD (Mic. 5:2, 4). From these humble origins, Jesus continues to invite us to tend to that which is often overlooked, neglected, and undervalued. Do not be weighed down by the worries of this life (Lk. 21:34), but learn to see the glory of God breaking in all around you. It is the mustard seed that grows to give shade and rest to all who draw near (Mt. 13:31-32). It is yeast, small and unseen, that leavens the entire loaf (Lk. 13:20-21).
In a season filled with countless distractions and sources of potential stress, it is easy to ignore the humble hope of Advent and the tender compassion of our Lord. Similarly, we may be tempted to believe that the cares of life are of little interest to our Lord. Surely, he has more important things demanding his time and attention! Yet in the quiet humility of the manger in Bethlehem, we are reminded once again, there is not a single concern that goes unnoticed, nor any sorrow left unhealed.
Only 24 days until Christmas. Lots to do and very little time. But there is always time to stop for a minute and get a little perspective about what God wants from us. Don't run so fast that you forget to make a necessary turn on the way to yours and God's goals!
Find new excitement
Psalm 130:5 – I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.
Is there anything more delightful than the sparkle of anticipation in the eyes of a small child? Think back. You had those feelings of excitement at one time…on hearing the far-off melody of the ice cream truck on a hot summer day, on smelling the cookies baking in the oven, on seeing city streets aglow with the lights of Christmas. What stirs up anticipation in your life today? The time when the coronavirus will be gone; the time when Congress will work together for the benefit of all Americans; the hour when you will see a relative who’s been away a long time? What if you were preparing to meet the King?
How do you approach your quiet times? “Well, it’s that time of the morning, so I’ll pour myself a cup of coffee and read my Bible for a little bit, then maybe I’ll pray a minute, but then I’ve got things to do?” Have you lost your awareness that you are about to spend time with the words given to you from the Creator of the Universe? Maybe it has slipped your mind that, as you pray, you are present in the very throne room of God who says to you, “Come, my child. Stay a while with me.” Is time with Him more of a priority than running those errands or mopping the kitchen floor? A.W. Tozer said, “Spending time with God puts everything else in perspective.” So get excited!
Most Holy God and my Father, forgive me for taking for granted my relationship with You. Forgive me for trying to do things for You within my own power, when I know full well that my power source is with You. It is from You that I gain my strength, and apart from You I can do nothing. Help me still the noises around me and to place my focus on You. Let me meditate on Your promises all day long. I long for the return of Your Son, Jesus. Help me by Your Holy Spirit to have that same longing for the time I spend with You each day. I thank You for loving me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
True Happiness - Day 3
You seek a happy life in a land of the dying: it is not there. How could a life be happy where life is missing? Our life, our true Life, descended into the world, took our death upon his back and destroyed it with the superabundance of his life. –St. Augustine of Hippo
Advent is fundamentally a journey of love. In this sense, it is a season of heightened attentiveness, reminding us of what is true in every time and every place. It is the love of God that draws near in Christ, it is the Spirit of God that nourishes and sustains us along our way, and it is perfect union with God the Father that remains the aim and destination of our lives. And while we know this to be true in the core of our being, so often life is lived shortsighted and easily distracted, pulled to one side or the other by lesser loves that promise fulfillment, yet leave us hollow and disfigured.
In order to encounter the love of God this Advent season, you must be willing to turn away from the desires that leave you spiritually blind and numb. As Revelation reminds us, we live in a world, like Babylon of old, drunk on sexual desire, power, and luxury. The solution? “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).
True happiness is not found in absolute freedom but in a life aligned with the virtues and values of the kingdom of God. The ways of the Lord are never for your harm but are for your healing. You are set free to receive a love that makes you truly human, and in turn a love that so transforms your heart and mind that you are sent, turned outwards to give your life away as a gift of love for the life of the world. This is the true spirit of Advent, and where happiness is always to be found.
Lifting our elections up to the Lord helps all of us keep the focus on the most important topics as well as softens our hearts to love everyone, even those with whom we may disagree. Believing differently shouldn't stop us from sharing God's love and His Word with others.