Category Archives: Advent/Christmas

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)

God Goes Before Us

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

As 2019 winds down, 2020 prepares to emerge with new opportunities and challenges. In Asian culture these two realities of life—opportunities and challenges—are often combined into one word which is interpreted as “change”.

In our text today, Moses is communicating several key changes for the Israelites. Moses announces that he will not be accompanying them into the Promised Land and that God had chosen a new leader to continue the Exodus journey. It will now be Joshua who must complete the work that Moses began. This announcement, I’m sure, caused great fear and anxiety for the 2+ million people who had put all their trust in Moses.

However, God wanted Joshua and the Israelites to know that they would not be expected to accomplish these new challenges by themselves. God would not send warriors or angels to help them but it would be God Himself Who would assure their success. God would go before them (vv. 3 and 8) and God would be with them (v. 6). To “go before and with them” speaks to God’s omnipresence. He is “everywhere present” in His totality and at the same time. No one but God could make such a promise. To further dispel their fears, God added His promise that He would “never leave nor forsake them”.   Jesus offered similar words of comfort to His disciples prior to His crucifixion (John 14:1-3).

Change comes on many levels in our lives.

Change may occur at a macro-level—that which deals with the events on a broad social, political, or economic level. Look at the affect world events have on the price of gas, or medical discovery has on the availability of adequate healthcare.

Change may surface on a micro-level–up close and personal. We may change our job, relocate to a new city, or introduce new people into our circle of friends. Wherever the point of entry of the change or the size of the challenge, believers must remember we are never left alone to face them.

God’s promise to the Israelites and Joshua should be a source of strength and comfort as believers today experience the enormous changes in the 21st century. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrew 13:8). All His promises are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Living in this fast paced, ever changing world, we need the Triune God Who will not only go before us but will also never leave us. We can rest assured that not only does God continually goes before us (Ps. 85:13) but we can confidently proclaim that we are never out of the presence of God (Ps. 139:7-10).

Prayers of Invocation

“Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”

1 Chronicles 16:11 (KJV)

For my 2019 Advent reading I added several books that focused on worship litanies and prayers. I have especially enjoyed reading prayers of invocation. Prayers of invocation are designed to invite the Presence of God into the time and space we’ve designated for worship. Advent, the beginning of the new Christian year, is a great time to incorporate this type of prayer into our personal spiritual discipline. Why you might ask?

Prayers of invocation cause us to give pause during the busyness of our life and refocus on God. We often forget our true purpose and eternal destiny. As children of God and joint heirs with Christ, we are to no longer live for ourselves but to live for the glory of God and service to mankind (2 Cor. 5:15). Prayers of invocation remind us of the sovereignty of God.

“Lord, into your most holy presence we now come. Calm our anxious spirits. Remove the distractions that would keep us from you here today. Break down the walls of separation that we have built to keep you from our hardened hearts. Lead us in joy and celebration of the only reality worth knowing, that you love us as we are. Free us for joyful obedience to your claim and call on our lives this day and every day.  Amen.”

Prayers of invocation open us to the work of the Spirit and help us to realize the power of God’s love. As we pray in “spirit and truth”, we invite the Holy Spirit to enter those “secret places in our heart and in our mind”—the places where the transforming work of sanctification can begin. As the Holy Spirit works within us, we are set free from the bondage of sin, healed of our brokenness, and conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

“Let us rise and meet our Creator. Let us raise our hands and voices in acknowledgment that God’s Holy Spirit moves among us, calling us to new life in Christ. Let us raise our eyes, knowing that this new life of stewardship for all God’s creation is seen in the life of Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.”

Lastly, prayers of invocation reveal our prideful and independent nature. When this happens we relegate God to a subordinate place on our lives. We deny the truth that God is the “Great I AM.” God is and will continue to be whatever we need to navigate in this life. Our Eternal Father is and has all we need for this present life and the life to come (Rev. 1:8).

“Lord, we come before your throne of grace not trusting in ourselves but in your marvelous and gracious love as it seeks expression among us. May we listen for your still, small voice as it speaks to us today and as it boldly proclaims the undeniable reality of your love that will not let us go. Stir our hearts and our imaginations that we may see beyond appearances of what is to the reality of what can be. In the name and spirit of the holy child, Jesus our Lord, we pray.  Amen.”

In 2020, add prayers of invocation to your prayer discipline. Invite God into your time and space in this new way. Your prayer life will be greatly expanded when you do.

Prayers from Advent and Christmas, David N. Mosser

To the Praise of God’s Glorious Grace

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.  Ephesians 1:4-6 (NKJ)

Last week we explored the meaning of “in Christ”.   In Christ is the believer’s identity with Christ and his position before God the Father.  The believer’s identity incorporates the personality of Christ by the   present experience of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer’s heart.  Being in Christ makes available to the believer everything that Christ has—His righteousness, privilege, resources, position and power.    This week we’ll continue our discussion of spiritual blessings by focusing on its primary source—God.

The source of spiritual blessings is God—The Faithful Creator and Sustainer of Life.  These blessings are available through God’s plan of salvation for those who by faith are in Christ.  God’s plan of salvation was not “Plan B” or an afterthought as a result of man’s fall in The Garden (Genesis 3:15) but was created in eternity before the foundations of the world.  “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:19-20).

The Old Testament prophets declared the plan of God to redeem and restore His people—for their sake and for His glory (Isaiah 43:21).  The Lord proclaimed through Jeremiah:  “I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me. Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.” (Jeremiah 33:8, 9)

God chose man from Creation to be the recipient of His great love, desiring to be in continual relationship with His most beloved creature.  However, the nature of God, His holiness, specifically, demanded that believers be “holy and without blame” before Him (1 Pet. 1:15-16).  God declared, therefore, the means by which man would be able to meet His requirement for holiness—His Son, Jesus Christ.

Through God’s predetermined plan, He adopted those in Christ to become His sons (and daughters) (Rom. 8:15-16).  By God’s act of grace (being chosen and adopted) and mercy (Christ’s substitutional death for sins), believers are now clothed in Christ’s righteousness (imputed), making the pursuit of holiness (blamelessness) possible.   With the addition of the Holy Spirit’s presence, believers are able “to both will and do God’s good will” (Phil. 2:13).

God’s affection for man speaks to the true heart and nature of God.  It expresses God’s goodness.  While God’s goodness includes, His love and His mercy, Paul speaks of the “glory of God’s grace” (charis) expressed in the free gift of His Son.  God’s grace, resulting in the believer’s salvation and justification (rendered righteous) before God (Rom. 5:1), deserves our highest praise.   Hallelujah, we are now acceptable to God through Jesus Christ!

A closing note:  Throughout Paul’s writing and especially in Ephesians, we are reminded that God as Sovereign of both heaven and earth does all things “according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5) and “according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).    God sovereignly rules over all things—present and future.  He rules with all wisdom, justice, and mercy, therefore, we can trust our present and our future in His hands (Rom. 8:28) regardless of what is happening in our external circumstances (2 Cor. 4: 18).

Chosen by God.  Holy and blameless in Him.  Adopted as sons.  Accepted by God.  These are the beginnings of the spiritual blessings God has lavishly given to those who are in Christ.  Taken individually, we can begin to understand and appreciate the privilege, power, and promise that flow from each (2 Pet. 1:3-4).  With each action of God, believers are invited to respond by participating in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth and in witnessing to others about the Good News of Jesus Christ.   Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord for all He has done and continues to do for those who are in Christ!

SELAH:   God has richly given to us “priceless” spiritual blessings.  Although, we can never repay God for all His blessings, how will you respond to His love and glorious grace?

In Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NKJ)

What does the believer need to “live victoriously”?  Some people think it begins with identifying their “spiritual gifts” so they can serve in the church (Eph. 4:12).  Others search out the “benefits of Christian living” claiming the promises of God as their own (2 Cor. 1:20).   But I contend that the most important understanding that leads to victorious living (for new and sage believers) is in understanding our spiritual blessings in Christ.  Spiritual blessings in Christ are the means by which believers gain access to, acceptance from, and authority of God.  As we celebrate Advent 2017, let’s explore what it means to be in Christ and the spiritual blessings associated with it.  These are the things that Christ came to give us in His first Advent and will be fully realized at His return.

When I began my Christian walk, the meaning of “in Christ” was a mystery to me.  I tried to understand it based on those things I was familiar with.  For example, I established membership in the local church, and I was in fellowship with its members to serve and glorify God in my life.  But “in Christ”, what did it mean?

“In Christ” is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart by the Spirit thereby incorporating the personality of Christ.  It is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus.  It describes the believer’s union with Christ as a result of the divine action of grace by God.  The result of that action is the believer is transformed into a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

“In Christ” isn’t the result of keeping the Law or by good works—it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:10).  How is this accomplished?  By taking part of weak flesh and blood, Christ was able to satisfy the righteous requirement of God, to destroy the devil, and to deliver us from the penalty of sin (Heb. 2:14-15).   In exchange, we have moved from being “dead in our trespasses” (Eph. 2:1) to our new position of being “in Christ.”   It is here that believers are put in a vital union and communion with Him so that we are identified with Him.

“In Christ” describes the believer’s identity with Christ and his position before God the Father.  The believer (in position) can now begin the process of being conformed (in practice) to the image of Christ—righteous and holy (Rom. 12:2).  In Christ God makes His superabundant blessing available to His children by faith in Christ so that what Christ has is theirs—including His righteousness, privilege, resources, position and power.  Believers are able to draw upon the wealth of Christ to accomplish God’s purpose and His will.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms.  It is the unique string of characteristics that make us who we are—physically and mentally.  In Christ, we have been given a new spiritual DNA that equips us for the purpose and plan God has created for our lives.  In Christ we have been given everything we need to live godly and productive lives (2 Pet. 1:3-4).  Join with us next week as we continue to explore, “Spiritual Blessings for Victoriously Living.”

 SELAH:  “Christ became like us so that we can become like Him”.  How does being in Christ affect your daily life and routine?

A Psalm for Advent

“The LORD reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad!” Psalm 97:1 (NKJ)

Advent has begun.  It is a time for personal reflection and spiritual awakening as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.  Choirs and orchestras are tailoring special worship music to commemorate the glorious day when God the Son condescended and entered into historical existence.  It is a time for high praise and worship.  We offer the 97th Psalm to usher in this special season.

The 97th Psalm belongs to a group of psalms (93-100) that affirm Yahweh’s kingship and His rule over the earth.  He both delivers and He judges.  It is in His great power and His “ineffable” love that He sent His Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).  The opening verse begins with what every believer should understand as a foregone conclusion—“the LORD reigns!”

The awareness of God’s sovereignty results in an appropriate response—“Be glad!”

The believer’s gladness if not tied to a specific outcome, but to realization of the fact that God works all things for His glory and our good (Rom. 8:28).  During acts of personal rebellion and disobedience, He makes all things good (Is. 44:24).  When we are faithless, He still proves faithful (2 Tim 2:13).  When our strength fails, He renews our strength (Is. 40:31). His sovereignty extended from eternity through time, in that when we were dead in our trespasses, He made us alive in Christ (Ep. 2:5).  God is able to “keep us” until Christ’s returns (Jude 1:24).  And nothing can separate us from His love (Rom 8:39).

As important as the fact of God’s sovereign reign, are the effects His returning reign has on believers today.  Psalm 97 closes with this exhortation.

“You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.  Light is sown for the righteous, And gladness for the upright in heart.  Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.”   (vv. 10-12)

Believers are to love the Lord and look forward to His “glorious appearing.” They are to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; they are to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:11-13).  They need not fear the day of the Lord’s appearance, because He has protected them from the wicked (Is. 54:17). The godly will enjoy the benefits of the rule of God: “light and gladness”. Light signifies the blessed state of redemption and victory (Isa. 60:1-3). This is cause for thankful praise.  The invitation to rejoice anticipates the Lord’s coming with His blessings.  Believers already experience many evidences of His kingship here on earth but eagerly await the fullness of his kingdom.

Also read:   Do You Wanna Be Happy?  Reality Living in God’s Kingdom

As you begin your Advent preparation, remember to include joyful praise for the fact that God fully reigns over all things—places, people, and circumstances. We need not wait to begin our jubilant celebration. We can begin today!

 SELAH:  Create a psalm of praise and glory in celebration of Advent 2017 and in anticipation of  Jesus’  glorious appearance in the future.

Perfecting Love

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (NIV)

Entering into this holiday season, WordBytes has shared two mindsets that will help us understand what really makes this time of the year special—relationships and gratitude.  This shift in thinking requires that we look beyond ourselves to more intentional expressions of kindness to others.  We close this series on preparing the heart for the holidays with our last mindset, which Paul describes as the “bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14)—the thing that holds everything together—love.

The first Bible verse a child usually learns is “God is love.”  As that child grows, his understanding of God’s love is expanded by personally observing acts of kindness in the world.  How does God disseminate His perfecting love into the world?

God loves us first.   “We love him, because he first loved us(1 John 4:19).   God is the source of love and therefore, He is the starting point of love’s entrance into the world.   God’s love for us began in eternity when He gave thought to man.  He created man His own image.  That endowment was given to no other creature of God’s making.  God gave of Himself—His own breathe (Gen. 2:7).  He gave man His essence including freewill.  He then blessed them and gave them dominion over the whole of creation (Gen. 3:27, 28).

We love God back.   “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Once we receive the revelation of God’s love for us (Ep. 1:17), it becomes possible for us to return God’s love to Him.  When we love God, He comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit (further evidence of His love).  We return God’s love through our obedience to His commandments (1 John 5:3) and our willingness to serve others (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

We love others like God.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another(1 John 4:11).  Jesus was asked by a devious lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt.22:35-40).  His response reflected His Father’s heart—love God first, others second.   God’s love is perfected in us as we love others more than ourselves (1 John 4:12, 17).   “Perfected” (teleioō) means to reach a goal or to be complete.  As believers love others like God, they begin to reach their goal of spiritual maturity and become effective ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).

 We love God together.  “Herein is our love made perfect…because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17).  After Jesus washed His disciples feet (John 13:1-20), He gave them a new commandment that they love one another.  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).  The greatest witness to God’s love is how believers care for one another “in community”.  It is not the geographic area that I’m speaking of, nor denomination, nor the universal church.  God’s love in community is authentic fellowship with other believers, experiencing true joy from being in each other’s presence.  As we love God together in community, we show how the love of God looks in the “real” world.

God’s love released into the world bears resemblance to a large stone dropped into a quiet lake.    Upon entering the motionless water, the stone creates a series of circular ripples that flow in all directions, outward from its initial source.  That’s how God’s love enters the world.  God is the Rock (He first loved us) and we are the resulting ripples created by the impact of His love—returning His love to Him, to others, and in community.

Powerful relationships and gratitude in action spring forth from God’s perfecting love.  As we prepare our hearts for the holidays, let’s exchange the worldview of “holiday cheer” with “God’s gift” of love and good will toward men.  God’s gifts will continue to return great joy and peace throughout the year and for years to come.

SELAH:  Read 1 John 4:7-16, “The Source of Love”.  In your first reading, make a note of the “words or phrases” that catch your attention. Read it a second time.  Feel free to use a different translation or paraphrase; list “the emotions” you feel in your reading.  (Awareness of Feelings).  Then read the text a final time and ask Jesus to share what is your “invitation for the day” from Him.  An invitation is a “personal” message, instruction, or encouragement JUST FOR YOU (versus a general application of Scripture).

 

 

 

Gratitude in Action

“Ho, Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters, And you who have no money, Come, buy, and eat.

Yes come, buy wine, and milk, without money and without price.”  lsaiah 55:1 (NKJV)

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving 2017, it is an appropriate time to consider not only what we are thankful for but also, how we show our thankfulness? ln other words, how will we express our gratitude? American writer, Gertrude Stein, offers this view of gratitude: “Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.” I agree! Therefore, I challenge you to move beyond quiet thankfulness to Christ-activated gratitude.

Gratitude is a noun that expresses the quality of being thankful and showing readiness to return kindness. This Thanksgiving, we will reflect on many kindnesses shown to our families and to us individually.  As Christ-followers, we are morally obligated to return those acts of kindnesses to others. These opportunities may come to us through individual requests or through needs we personally have identified. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

Gratitude has also been described as a kindness awakened by a favor received. God has given us great favor. ln Isaiah 55, God is inviting sinners to come and receive the abundant gift of eternal life that is only possible through acceptance of Him.  The sinner is encouraged to seek the Lord while He may be found-to call upon Him while He is near (verse 6).  This invitation is a reflection of God’s love and kindness toward sinner man.

Even today, God invites us to “come, buy, and eat without money and without price.” What God offers is not physical provision for the body (water, wine, and milk) but eternal nourishment for the soul. God’s favor of salvation should awaken kindness within us (2 Peter 1.5, 7) that will result in compassion for others.

Hunger and homelessness are destroying our communities; hopelessness and despair are stealing the dreams of our nation. This holiday, search for opportunities to “give the gift that keeps on giving”—human kindness. This year instead of giving clothing, gift cards, or electronics, give the gift of gratitude in action.

SELAH:  What is standing in the way of you showing “gratitude in action”?  Read and meditate on Luke 17: 11-19 to help you express gratitude in action.