Category Archives: Advent/Christmas

A Better New Year’s Resolution, Part 1

A Better New Year's Resolution

It’s that time again

The Christmas holidays are winding down.  Special parties and family celebrations will culminate with the ringing in of a new year.  There is only one more thing to do.  It’s time to make our New Year’s resolution.

Who created those things anyway?  Whatever their origin, regardless of our success or our failure in their creation, resolutions are intended to set a better pattern for living our lives in the upcoming year.  This may include new purpose that relate to our health, our finances, and even our relationships.

It is a time to reflect on what worked or what could have worked better.  New Year’s resolutions give us an opportunity to put our best foot forward in the coming year.  But this year, I’m taking a different approach.

This year, instead of being dependent on my resolution, I’m going to strengthen my connection with the One who can help me make more than a superficial change.  I’m going to choose a better way (Phil. 3:8-10).  I choose transformation that is only possible through Jesus Christ.

Why attempt to identify a “better way” when Jesus has provided us “the best way” (John 14:6).  Through Christ we are new creatures indwelt by His Holy Spirit.   The only thing we need to do is to embrace our identity.  In Christ, we can do better everyday in the new year.

In search of a better way

The Book of Colossians records the letter from the Apostle Paul to the Church in Colosse.  He was concerned with the reports he had received from a local evangelist, Epaphras, concerning the possible “encroaching heresy” threatening this predominately Gentile church. (Col. 1:21, 27; 2:13)

In their search to find the best way to live in their world, they were now considering a new religious system that combined elements from Greek speculation (Col. 2:4, 8-10), Jewish legalism (Col. 2:11-17), and Oriental mysticism (Col. 2:18-23).[1]    

This threat to Christ’s church is still present even now, in 2021.  It is called syncretism.

Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs and various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merging or assimilation of several mythologies or religions, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths.[2]

 A better way or led astray?

As Christians, we must be careful to avoid societal pressures to combine Christianity with “other things”.  To do so can subtly lead us away from the basic tenets of our faith.  Seeking to be “socially and politically correct”, we might be led to compromise or minimize God’s truth.

The nation of Israel fell prey to this practice (1 and 2 Kings).  This practice resulted in idolatry, disobedience to God, and weakening of their faith.  Take a look around.  Do we see a similar thing happening in our world today?

Are you ready to change?

In Colossians 3:5-9, Paul admonishes these young believers to “put off” their old man.  The old man represented the person they use to be before coming to Christ.  That old man walked according to the influences of the world and the weakness of their human flesh (1 John 2:15-16).

The 21st century has mastered the art of influence.  Media (social and otherwise) tells us how we are to think and act.  We invite them into our homes and offices.  They are the uninvited passenger in our cars as we drive here and there.  Marketing bombards us with messages on who we should be.  They create great dissatisfaction with what we have, how we look, and what we know.  (That’s how they keep us spending money).   Social messaging keeps us “in our current state” by telling us what we can or can’t do.  They remind us of our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities.  So much so that we are fearful to move without their validation.

Old “dead man” walking

“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction.” (Gal. 6:8a, NIV)

We must guard against the defiling touch of the world, of sin, and of the old self-life. We stand between two worlds, each solicits us: let us yield to the influences that pull us upward, and not to those that anchor us to this sinful and vain world. Our eternal blessedness has begun, let us walk in it.  In Christ we profess to have put off the old man, i.e., the habits of our former life; now let us actually do so, in the power of the Holy Spirit.[3]

Even as Christians, we still tend to depend on our self-discipline, self-will, and self-motivation to live a sober, righteous, and godly life (Titus 2:11-14).  Just like our New Year’s resolution.  We try and try.  But we usually fall off the wagon by Valentine’s Day.  What we need is not a new syncretic way nor a more disciplined approach.  We need transformation.  We need to “put on the new man”.

[1]  The Times of Colossians, The New Open Bible Study Edition.    

[2] Wikipedia

[3] F.B. Meyers, Through the Bible Commentary, Colossians 3

Returning to Joy

 

Returning to joy

What is Joy?

Joy is defined as gladness of heart.  It is listed among the top five things[1] people desperately want in life yet “never seem to be able to get”.  Joy’s allusiveness, in many cases, is the result of our tendency to define joy as external to ourselves.  We believe it is a person, place, or thing.  Once we have “it”, we’ll have joy.  Wrong!

Joy under Attack

As we survey the world we live it, gladness of heart is under attack.  Our attempts to navigate 21st century living seem more daunting and challenging with each new day.  Financial worries served as a significant source of stress ranking higher than three other causes of concern: work, family responsibilities, and health concerns.

Work, family, and health concerns have exploded with the advent of COVID and its variants.   So how can we find joy?   The Apostle Paul shares the secret of not only how to find joy but also how to return to it in spite of the pressures we might face.

Source of Joy

In Philippians 4:4, Paul exhorts the Church at Philippi to holy joy and delight in God.

Delight yourselves in the Lord, yes, find your joy in him at all times.  (Phillips Translation)

God has furnished us with joy even in the worst of circumstances.  Nehemiah in the midst of hostility and threats, said that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Neh. 8:10).  David acknowledged that “in God’s presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).  Jesus instructed His Disciples “to live in The Vine”—in Jesus’ holy presence (John 15:5-11).  By living in the Vine, Jesus’ joy would remain “in them and be full.”  These same offers of joy are extended to you and I who live in the 21st century.    Jesus is the source of our joy.

Returning to Joy

It is God’s desire that we return to joy regardless of life’s circumstances or difficulties.  Jesus describes these as “tribulations” (John 16:33).  Tribulations and trials are “natural outcomes” we suffer as a result of living in a fallen world.

We experience the effects of fallenness every day.  They include death, disease, and difficulties.  However, in Christ and as God’s children, we have been provided with God’s Presence (The Holy Spirit), God’s blessings (Eph. 1:3-17), and God’s inexhaustible grace to sustain us (Phil. 1:6).

Returning to joy strengthens our resolve and helps us to continue the purpose God has set before us. Such strength can only come from Eternal God Who helps us through the worst of circumstances.   When we come into the presence of the Lord, we connect with His great and eternal power.  God’s power exceeds anything we can do in our own strength (Phil.  4:13).

We are invited to return to the joy that comes from serving God who is sovereign and who has overcome the world (Ps. 119:89-91).  As we close the door on 2021, let us prepare to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition to find our joy in the Lord.

May the joy of Jesus fill your heart.

May His joy be full and complete in your life.

Have a blessed Christmas!

[1]  Top 5 include:   Happiness, Money, Freedom, Peace, Joy

The Expectancy of Advent

The Expectancy of Advent

Prophecy:  good news/bad news

The first arrival of Jesus Christ was foretold by many of the Old Testament prophets.

The earliest prophecy of Jesus Christ’s birth occurred about 4000 B.C. and is recorded in Genesis 3:15. The most significant prediction is found in Daniel 9:25-26. It was written somewhere around 538 B.C. and gives the exact year, A.D. 33, in which Jesus Christ would die. From that prophecy one can estimate the earliest year in which Jesus could have been born. That prophecy and six other prophecies are given about His birth.[1]

While Jesus Christ’s birth was good news, sometimes the prophets were chosen by God to deliver difficult messages.  Prophets were not fortune tellers (as many people mistakenly believe) but “forth tellers”.  Forth tellers proclaimed what “thus says the LORD God”.  Their prophecies outline what we can expect from God in the future.

During the final days of Israel and Judah, God communicated through the prophets a message of judgment.  The divided kingdoms were to be sent into captivity in Assyria and in Babylon for 70 years.  Why?  Because of their disobedience and their divided allegiance to Yahweh.  Put more simply, they were under God’s judgment because of their sins.   There is always a natural consequence of sin.  In this case, the consequence was captivity (1 Kings 14:15).

Expecting something better

The prophets were not only responsible for proclaiming a message of judgment.  With that judgment message God also included a message of restoration.  God in always merciful and faithful.  Even in our faithlessness He remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13).

Israel’s story would not end in captivity in a distant land.  They would ultimately return to the land that God promised to the Patriarchs (Gen. 17:8).  God would sovereignly orchestrate Israel’s physical return to Jerusalem.

God would also sovereignly send His Son Jesus to arrange Israel’s spiritual return to Himself.  God sent His Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).  The promise of a savior would create an “expectancy” of something better for their future.

“I’ll be back”

While Christ’s first arrival marked the offering of salvation and deliverance to all mankind, His second coming will be ”very different” (Rev.19:11-16).   The child that we celebrate at Christmas will return as the “Righteous Judge” (2Tim. 4:8).

Jesus spoke openly about the certainty of His return (Matt. 24:27-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28).   The disciples pressed Jesus for the “day and hour” (Matt. 24:36).  Instead Jesus emphasized expectancy.  Expectancy requires that we be both faithful and watchful until He returns.

Our expectancy allows us to anticipate and plan for events that could potentially impact our life. We rise early to watch the morning traffic report and weather forecast for the day. Why? Because we want to be prepared–no surprises!

Expectancy influences preparation

Christ is coming again. He will first return for His Church at a time called the Rapture and take us back to heaven to be with Him (1Thess. 4:13-18).  Nonbelievers, however, will be “left behind” to enter a seven-year period of trouble and desolation known as The Great Tribulation.  At the end of the Tribulation, Christ will return to the earth to judge mankind for their unbelief and their sins (Rev. 20: 11-15).

We expect Jesus Christ to return.  It is a certainty (Acts 1:11). With His arrival the world, as we know it today, will change forever. That being the case, should we not give special attention to prepare for His return?

It is important that we fully expect and embrace the reality of Christ’s Second Coming. It is equally important that we prepare for it!  For nonbelievers, the reality of Christ’s return is an invitation to repent and turn to Him TODAY. For believers, it reinforces our need to share the Good News of Jesus Christ EVERYDAY to EVERYONE God places in our path.

Just as we prepare for Christmas morning, we would be wise to expect and prepare for Jesus Christ’s return.  The prophets were 100% accurate with their prophecies of Jesus’ first arrival.  You can be sure, they’re also correct about His second return.

[1] NeverThirsty.org

 

Hearing God at Advent

 

 

Hearing God at Advent

Who has an ear to hear?

In Isaiah 30:21, the prophet shares with his readers how God would in the future speak   directly to His followers.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way,walk in it, when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.’

This method of speaking directly to us would happen much later at Jesus’ first advent. After Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit would be available to permanently dwell within us (John 16:13-15).  The author of Hebrews captures in the opening verses of this epistle the change in how God communicates with us (Heb. 1:1-2).

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

Our position in Christ gives us not only direct access to the Father and Jesus but also gives us the Holy Spirit to live within us (John 14:16). It is through this “gift” of the Holy Spirit that we hear God speak to us.

Are our ears burning?

We would do well to make every effort to listen for God’s voice.  This involves being spiritually attentive to Him through prayer, fasting and meditating on His Word.

It helps to silence our own voice to hear Him speak.  This requires eliminating the demanding cry of our soul—our mind (“I need to know!”), our will (“I want it my way and I want it now!”) and our emotions (“I need to feel something!”).  God hears our every call (Ps. 91:15) but do we hear Him?

What do we expect God to say?

This requires spiritual honesty.  Are we open to what He may say to us?  Many times, we only listen for responses from God we want to hear versus what He has on His heart for us.

Most often than not we come to God with a particular issue or request.  Are we open to the possibility that God may have a very different agenda. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!   For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:33-34)

Believers’ desire to be obedient to the Lord will help greatly in hearing God’s voice.  The issue many times is not whether God is speaking or whether we are hearing.  The real question is, are we willing to obey what He has already revealed to us through His Word and through our circumstances?

This dilemma may require us to identify intentions that conflict with the godly purpose the Father has designed for our lives.  “For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world.”  (1 John 2:16)

Are we willing to wait to hear God speak?

If we are eager to hear God’s voice, we must be willing (and content) to wait.

Waiting is not easy in a world that operates at warp speed.  We are told that “Time waits for no man”, “Lost time results in lost opportunity”, and “Time is money”.

However, our Infinite God does not operate within the finite boundary of time but in eternity.  Hearing His voice requires that we patiently keep our eye on Him.  As we wait, there is an expectancy that we will hear Him speak.  “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.” (Ps. 123:2)

Are we “present” to hear?

The best way for believers to hear from God, is simply to abide in His presence.  Abide means “to remain or to continue to be present.” We are never our of God’s presence.  He is everywhere.  He is always present.  (Read Psalms 139)

It is up to us to sensitize ourselves to hearing God.  As we become more aware His presence, we are able to maintain continual, unbroken connection with Him. It is here that we can experience continual dialogue with God the Spirit versus straining for an occasional “word from the Lord.”  (Read John 15)

The greater our intimacy with God, the easier it is to hear His voice.    “I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me; My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14, 27)    

Advent is a great time for us to discover or rediscover hearing from God. God speaks not only through His Creation, but God also speaks directly to us.  Do not neglect such a great opportunity to hear from God.

After Christmas 2020

After Christmas 2020

For many of us, Christmas is our favorite time of the year.   We exchange cards that reflect our feelings about this very special  season.  Many cards speak of the love, joy, and peace of Christmas.  Others extend season’s greetings and happy holidays.

With Christmas comes the hope of “peace on earth and good will toward men.”  We need both after 2020.

However,  after the cards are sent, the tree comes down, and gift giving ceases, what will we do with Christmas? What happens to the spirit of Christmas?

The Spirit of Christmas

What exactly is  “this spirit” we talk about so much this time of year? It is a shift in our usual behavior that is extended to others, especially to people we may not know personally.

It is exhibited in more generosity and kindness than normally seen.  This includes but is not limited to the following.

    • Unmerited forgiveness and grace extended to irritable neighbors and estranged relationships
    • Abundant care and concern seen in special collections, gifts and other acts of human philanthropy
    • Indiscriminate displays of kindness and brotherly love for others

Unfortunately, many people confuse the spirit of Christmas with   commercialism we see in advertising  and media.  This spirit often leads to dissatisfaction, materialism, and greed.  The Apostle John described this as the “lusts of the eye” (1 John 2:16).

However, we who are in Christ have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts (Gal 5:24).  As believers, we have exchanged the spirit of Christmas for the “Spirit of Christ” (Luke 4:18).

The True Source

It is also important that we understand the “True Source” of the spirit of Christmas—Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Christ came that our joy might be full (John 15:11).  He is our peace (Eph. 2:14).

After Christmas 2020

The COVID-19 experience has generated unbelievable acts of charity and kindness.  For these, we are grateful.  Extension of such graces will be critical as we move into 2021.

Financial uncertainty  and loss of jobs will increase hunger and homelessness in our communities.  Increases in COVID-19 deaths will require us to extend “comfort and mercies” to those in need ( 2 Cor. 1:3-4).

Organizations who are on the front line of this pandemic will need our special prayers AND financial support to provide assistance and relief.

The Spirit of Christ

The spirit of Christmas can only temporarily address the challenges we face in 2021.  We need a long-term, effectual solution.

As Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) we can extend  “the Spirit of Christ”–His grace and love–throughout the year.    This includes sharing His good news  to those experiencing hopelessness and despair.

After Christmas 2020,  how can we extend the spirit of Christ?

The Discipline of Waiting: Advent 2020

The Discipline of Waiting

Waiting

This Advent season, we’ve been discussing the subject of waiting—its psychology, its challenges, and its frustrations.

How well we wait lies not only in what we are waiting for but also who we trust to provide our desired outcome.   That trust is based on the provider’s ability to deliver the outcome.

Our willingness to wait varies.  It may be based on generational differences, expectations, and/or the attraction of the desired outcome.  Regardless, we hate to wait.

Advent and Waiting

The first Advent was a time of waiting.  Israel waited with hope for the promised redeemer who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  The Three Wise Men (Magi) waited for a sign (the star) that would lead them to the King of the Jews.

Those who studied the law and the prophets, such as Simeon and Anna, daily waited for the arrival of the Promised Savior.  “There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon:  and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon Him.” (Luke 2:25).

Waiting is a spiritual discipline.  

Godly waiting is a spiritual discipline that every believer should cultivate.  As with any discipline, practice makes “progress” (perfection is not always the goal).  Advent is a time in which we should make every effort to expand our capacity to wait.  That increased capacity will strengthen us for the days ahead.

While waiting, we exercise our patience “muscles” and bolster our endurance until we receive what we are waiting for (Heb.10:36).  In our waiting, faith is activated and strengthened.  It is in the waiting that our hope becomes an expectation.  While waiting, our belief and trust become rooted and grounded in the Lord (Ps. 27:13-14).

What are you waiting for?  Provision, healing, or deliverance?  The believer who waits on the Lord will not be disappointed!  (Is. 40:31)

Learning to wait in 2020

2020 has taught us to wait.  What have you learned about waiting this year? We learn from our experiences to the extent we are willing to be shaped by them (Heb. 12:11).  This includes our experiences with waiting.

Waiting is an important discipline for believers to learn.  As I stated earlier, how well we wait is based on who we trust to provide our desired outcome.  We are more willing to wait when we trust the one who can and will deliver the outcome we need.

As believers our response to waiting is different because we know Who can deliver everything we may be waiting for.  It is the Creator and Sustainer of all things—seen and unseen; past, present, and future; Alpha and Omega.  It is Eternal God (Jer. 10:10, 12).

Also watch: “Courageous Waiting”, metrombc.org, 12/20/20

Rev. Wallace S. Hartsfield II, Metropolitan MBC

 The Gift in Waiting

We have been given great and precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4) as well as spiritual gifts (Eph. 1:3-17) that enable us to live victoriously.  These also enable us to wait patiently and hopefully on the Lord.

As we live in this period between Jesus’ first arrival (as Savior) and His second return (as Judge), let us remain faithful to that which God has given us to do (Titus 2:14).  Use this time of waiting to experience the fullness of God and to serve Him until His return.

May you and your family experience a joyous and blessed Christmas.

I Hate to Wait: Advent 2020

I Hate to Wait-Advent 2020What goes on in our mind while we are waiting?  Why are we so anxious?  Why is waiting so difficult?   What is waiting really about?

Waiting is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something happens.  It is the act of staying in one place or remaining inactive in expectation for something.

There are many views with regard to our “waiting tolerance.”  Some are unique to specific generational differences while others are common to all people regardless of age, socio-economic factors, or gender.

Much of our anxiety can be eased based on the quality of the item one is waiting for.  However, we still can feel a level of frustration that cannot be eliminated.

Psychology of Waiting

In a paper written by David Maister, The Psychology of Waiting Lines, he provides some insight into the psychology of waiting.  The main point is that the actual time spent waiting may have little to do with how long the wait feels.  What appears common is the whole issue of what to do with the time a person spends while waiting—the “unoccupied time”.

Unoccupied time is the window where the anxiety of waiting is the greatest.  It is the time we spend in the present until the desired outcome occurs. Give people something to occupy their time, and the wait will feel shorter.  How do you spend the unoccupied time while waiting?

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in thee.”

On a spiritual level, when one is waiting for healing, a word from the Lord, or emotional/financial release, the psychology of waiting takes on a distinctive difference.   Our normal perspective on waiting changes in lights of who we’re waiting for (God) and our level of confidence in the final outcome (also God’s).

In today’s text (Ps. 39:7), David is crying out to God in a time of trouble.  His initial frustration in waiting is later transformed into “hope” by declaring his trust in God, who has always shown Himself faithful to his people and His Covenant.   David knows God will continue to do so, even when God’s specific plan for the future might not be fully understood.  Comfort in waiting is based on an overwhelming confidence or hope in God personally.

Hope in the Waiting

While researching the topic of waiting ,  I was re-directed to the word “hope”.  Hope is one of the four principles we explore during Advent season in which we commemorate mankind’s waiting for Emmanuel, the promised Messiah.  Hope focuses attention on both “what awaits us” (Lam. 3:26; Ps. 37:34) and “the object of our wait” (Ps. 130:5-6).

In both the Old and New Testament the connection to hope and waiting is built on both a personal relationship and reliance on God.

Waiting in the secular world often causes frustration and anxiety.  However, when we are anchored to God, waiting is filled with patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm (Acts 1:4).

Those who wait on God have the assurance that their waiting is for a specific purpose, which God is orchestrating.
Why do I hate to wait?

There are many reasons we have a problem with waiting.  Do any of these characteristics impact your waiting on God?

  • Impatience. We want what we want now.  Impatience is the inability to control one’s desire for action (Numbers 20:10-12).
  • Pride. We operate with an inflated opinion of what’s the best answer or solution to our problem or situation.  Pride is the conceited sense of one’s superiority (Hosea 7:8-10)
  • Independence.  “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”  Independence is the need to control one’s affairs apart from outside influences (Luke 15:12-16), even God.
  • Stubbornness. Who can talk a fool out of his folly? Stubbornness entails the trait of being difficult to handle or overcome (Proverbs 26:3-5)
Experiencing God in the Wait

As believers, we are not exempt from suffering and experiencing tragedy, yet we can face the future expectantly, waiting for the movement of God in our life.

We may have to wait a while for the full experience of the good that God intends for is, but be assured, God is fully committed to everyone who makes a faith commitment to him.

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him”.  Isaiah 30:18 

God, Time, and Waiting: Advent 2020

God, Time, and Waiting Scripture teaches us that, “a thousand years in God’s sight are but as yesterday” (Ps.90:4, RSV).  Therefore, in waiting for God, we may as well throw our watches away.  It is both frustrating and silly, to try to hold the Creator of the universe to our schedules and timelines. If we want to move “with” God in our life, we must learn to wait.

Man’s Time

What is the socially acceptable time to wait?  In college, if the  professor was delayed, we were instructed to wait for fifteen minutes before leaving.  In most restaurants, you most likely can expect to wait before being seated.  The time wait is generally dependent on time of day, the popularity of the restaurant and the quality of the food. Regardless of “acceptability”, we still, at one time or another, are required to wait.

One of the biggest frustrations for individuals living in the 21st century is waiting.  Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line. The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away.

Generations wait differently

Our willingness to wait varies.  This “waiting tolerance” may be based on generational differences, expectations, and the attraction of the desired outcome.

Baby Boomers, who tend to be more intentional in planning, are fairly comfortable with waiting based on the value of the outcome—waiting is tied to worth.  This is seen in their loyalty to career/employers and investment in relationship building.

For Generation X and Y, waiting is generally acceptable when it is connected to the availability of the desired item, vis-à-vis waiting for the latest IPhone or designer tennis shoe.

For Generation Z, born into a world that screams “instant gratification”, waiting is viewed as a negative—denoting that something is “broken” or “wrong” therefore interfering with receipt of their desired outcome.

All generations hate to wait—the difference lies in “what” or “who” is causing the delay—that even includes God.

Spiritual waiting:  Timeless

What is the “spiritually” acceptable time to wait? Are the rules different?

If we are waiting for God—His intervention or direction—let me answer the second question first.  Yes, the “rules” are different because God is spirit—everlasting, eternal and immortal (John 4:24).

God exists not in the confines of human time but in eternity where there is no time (Is. 57:15).  Time simply put is duration.  Our earthly time pieces mark change in duration that indicate the passage of time.  Eternity, in contrast, expresses the concept of something that has no end and/or no beginning.  God has no beginning or end. He is outside the realm of time (2 Pet. 3:8).

Moses’ simple yet profound analogy (Ps. 90:4) helps us better understand the timelessness of God.  “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A second is no different from an eon; a billion years pass like seconds to the eternal God.

Waiting for God

In answer to the second question,“What is the “spiritually” acceptable time to wait?”  My answer is simple—as long as God tells you to wait.  The thing about waiting for God is that there is no set or agreed upon time when an answer might be forthcoming.  You can move ahead of God, but you risk missing or delaying the desired purpose God has for your life (Eph. 2:10).

Waiting for God is where our faith comes into play.  We must believe and trust that God loves us and will always do what is best for us.  What we see as a delay is really God’s “best timing” for our life.

What makes the waiting for God “acceptable” (I struggle for a better word) is that God is always worth the wait (Lam. 3:26).  This Advent pray for more patience and knowledge on how to wait for God.

Waiting: Advent 2020

Advent waiting Advent has begun.  For the secular world, this season will be spent  waiting for Christmas.  And how will the world wait for its arrival?  By catching all the sales, looking for the best deals, and insuring their credit limit will survive the endless gift lists for friends and family.  However, this year’s waiting will look and feel different.  

The coronavirus with its financial impacts will make Christmas look a little less “glitzy” and a lot more basic.   Add to that the public health mandates, opportunities to share Christmas cheer will be less frequent if not at all.

Advent 2020

For believers Advent marks a different kind of waiting.  While it is a time of celebrating Christ’s first arrival, it is also a time “to reset Jesus Christ as the center of our lives and at the center of our church.”

In the Renovare podcast, “Waiting in the Darkness:  Why we Need Advent this Year,  this time is also described as “making room” in our lives for Jesus.

Waiting for Christ

Advent is a time when we not only wait to celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ but we also joyfully anticipate Christ’s “imminent” return for His Church (2 Tim. 4:8).

Imminent comes from the Latin word meaning “to overhang”.  To say that something is imminent is to say that it is hanging over you and about to fall, in a metaphorical way.  Christ will return but we don’t know when.  So we wait for his return.

Remember what the angels told the disciples at the ascension of Christ:

You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky?  This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.  (Acts 1:11, The Message)

In the Gospels, Jesus spoke with certainty about His Second Coming or the Second Advent (Matt. 16:27; 24:44; John 14:1-3; Luke 21:34-36).

How are we to wait?

In James 5:7,  the brother of Jesus gives us our first hint as to how we are to wait.

Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.  (NRS)

We are to wait with patience.  James uses the illustration of the farmer and his need to wait on that which he has no control and yet is  critical for his future provision—rain.

It is the same with believers as we await Christ’s return.  We don’t know when it will happen, but we know we desperately need Him both now and through eternity.

While you wait read:   2020 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL READINGS 

Learning to wait

And so we wait.  We wait for the hope of One whose return is imminent yet unknown specifically when.  We hope in the midst of what appears hopeless, because God alone can resolve what ails the world.  So we patiently wait for his return (Prov. 20:22). 

I contend that waiting—godly waiting–is a spiritual discipline that every believer should cultivate and embrace versus accept with great resignation.   Advent season is the perfect time to practice what will result in a priceless gift from God.  The joy of waiting.

Living Life on the Dash

So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

I’d like to share a few thoughts to consider as we prepare for 2020.  New Year’s gives us the opportunity to both reflect on the past year while considering how we want to spend the upcoming year.  To help us with this insightful exercise, I’d like to pose this question, “how do you want to live the rest of my life?”  I refer to this as “the dash”, the timeframe between birth and death.  We see it on cemetery tombstones to frame one’s lifetime but do we seriously consider the possibilities that lay “on the dash”?

The subscript for Psalm 90 is “A Prayer of Moses the man of God” and deals specifically with the eternality of God contrasted with the mortality of man.  The thrust of this magnificent prayer is to ask God to have mercy on frail human beings in a sin-cursed universe.

Moses remembered God’s protection, sustenance, and stability as He guided over 4 million people across the desert to God’s Promised Land. He was their dwelling place—their sanctuary in the desert (Ps. 90:1-2).  Verse 2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth or the earth and world was formed,

God was.  Almighty God is dependent on nothing or anyone for sustenance or favor.  He will forever be Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

Man, in contrast, was formed from the dust of the ground and came into existence after God breathed the breathe of life into his nostrils (Gen, 2:7). This life was spirit—it was that part of man that would never age and would, like its Creator, live forever. Then man became a living soul—with a mind, a will, and emotions.  Man was dependent upon God for all things.  God could be trusted to guard man’s life.

God can still be trusted today even in the midst of social, political, and financial upheaval.  Even in the midst of calamity, the beauty of the LORD—His delight, approval, and favor—is still available to those who turn their hearts to Him (Ps. 90:17).  In our frailty, God gives us His strength. “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me” (2 Timothy 4:17)

Each of us has been given life by God.  We celebrate our beginning annually on our birthday—life before the dash.  Our “earthly end”—life after the dash—represents the end of our mortal life and the beginning of our eternal life with Christ.  God has created us for His purpose; it is in that place of created purpose, that we live our lives—we live our life on the dash.  This is where the daily events of living take place and we become “God’s workmanship” (Ep. 2:10).  As you prepare for 2020, make the most of your life on the dash.  Like Moses, pray, “Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.”  (New Living Translation)