Tag Archives: Advent

Advent Revisited: God, Time, and Waiting

 

God, Time, and Waiting

A Time of Waiting

Advent season is a time of waiting.  Waiting by its very definition is challenging.  It is defined as the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.

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.  That’s why as believers, it is important to remember that Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith is worth waiting for.

Godly Waiting

Waiting is a spiritual discipline.  “Godly” waiting is a spiritual discipline that we must 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).

As we continue our journey through “Advent past”, we will look at waiting from a different perspective:  God’s perspective.

“GOD, TIME, AND WAITING”

Advent Revisited: A Psalm for Advent

 

A Psalm for Advent

A Time to remember

One of the things I love to do during the holiday season is to find a quiet place in the house and reminisce on how my family prepared for Christmas.    After Thanksgiving, we would receive the “Sears and Roebuck” Christmas catalog.  We called it “the dream book.” Now Christmas displays begin to appear before Halloween.

As believers, we have the liturgical calendar to help us “mark” the different aspects of this most holy season.  It begins with Advent and the practice of waiting.  It culminates with Christmas, a time of celebrating the arrival of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.

This Advent, I invite you to join us as we reminisce and revisit Advents of the past through our WordBytes devotion.  We have chosen three (3) of our most popular Advent WordBytes from past years.  We hope they will fill your hearts with hope, peace, joy, and love.

“A PSALM FOR ADVENT”

What do you want for Christmas?

 

What do you want for Christmas?

Christmas past

What do you want for Christmas this year?  What’s your ask?  When I was a child, my anticipation of Christmas was so high.  I remember the special journey to see the animated Christmas displays in the store windows in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.  The shops on “Petticoat Lane” and the special baked goods at “The Cake Box”.  There was no sitting on Santa’s lap and sharing our list of wants, but endless nights of looking at the special Christmas catalogue from Sears, J.C. Penney’s, and “Monkey Wards” (Montgomery Wards).  What a wonderful and magical time!

But I’m no longer a child.  To the contrary, I’m a grandmother and family elder.  Now as I anticipate Christmas, I ask myself, what do I want?  What are my choices?  Things eternal or things of this world? Now I must look beyond Christmas Day with its torn wrapping paper and empty boxes.  I want something that lasts beyond Christmas Day.  Don’t you?  As we close out this year, I invite you to join me in answering this question for yourself.

What’s on your list?

Harry & David suggests we warm hearts with festive gourmet gifts and Christmas gift baskets.  That’s no surprise!  “Do it Yourselfers” ensure us that handmade gifts will be received with joy:  polaroid photo magnets (try finding a polaroid camera), beautifully packaged cookie mixes or pretty finger knit blankets.  Who has the time?

Topping the list of the 23 “hottest cool gadgets” for Christmas is a Black Bird drone with camera for $99.  “For the first time, ordinary people can capture crazy selfies and shots that were previously only possible with professional equipment.”  I’m sure our neighbors and friends will love sharing in on this gift.

But what do people really want?

Here are some things to consider as you plan your gift shopping.

In an article entitled The Top 10 Things People Want in Life but Can’t Seem to Get, I was amazed in reading the responses to this informal survey that probed “critical life and career questions.”  From my reading, I compiled (in their order of importance) the top five (5) areas people are feeling desperate about:  happiness, money, freedom, peace, and joy.   I’ve included a sixth, balance, since it is the focus of many Millennials and Genxers.  What was surprising was that most of the items were intangible, subjective (what I can feel), and internal versus external.

In the aftermath of COVID (before the variants), people wanted “relationship”.   A few verbatims are captured below recognizing the extraordinary power and satisfaction that can only be found through our connection with one another.

  • “Have a big family get together!”
  • “Go to a game and watch some sports!”
  • “See my mom in assisted living.”
  • “Make sure all my friends are cured too, then we’ll party!”

A new Barna Group report was released this month on trends in the Black church[1].  When asked what churchgoers wanted for their lives, the results were as follows:

  • 84% wanted good health
  • 83% wanted a close relationship with God
  • 77% wanted to provide for their family
  • 75% wanted a clear purpose for living

Note the focus of the three groups.  They were primarily, intangibles, subjective, and internal.

What I want for Christmas 2022

Challenges will continue in 2023.  Financial upheaval, political squabbles, shortages, rising social needs, hunger, and homelessness (regardless of the new names).  What do we need?  What do we want?

After conducting my personal survey among friends and family, I’ve created a revised “short Christmas list”.  Many of the items on this list have been sermonized during this season of Advent.  They are hope, peace, joy, and love.

    • Hope—”expecting a better future for the world, our nation, and our families”
    • Peace— “less hatred, division, and political strife”
    • Joy— “more contentment and gratitude regardless of our situation”
    • Love—”better relationships and greater compassion for others”

Reflecting on the various lists of “things” people desire, it is clear, God has already provided these and much more.  Happiness, freedom, and balance. God will provide it.  Relationship.  God will be whomever we need in our life.   Hope, peace, joy, and love.  In Him and in His presence, we will find more than we need (Eph. 3:20-21).   It is up to each of us to access our heavenly gifts through faith and obedience to God.  In Christ, all these things are currently ours.

Below are my “gift lists” available to us through relationship with our Heavenly Father, Who only gives “good and perfect gifts” (James 1:17). God’s gifts last beyond the torn tissue and open boxes.  They last beyond Christmas day through all of eternity.  With God and in Christ, every day is Christmas.

  • Ephesians 1:3-17
  • 2 Peter 1:3-18

[1]  This report was created in partnership with Black Millennial Café, Urban Ministries, Inc., Compassion International to celebrate the legacy of the Black Church in America and to pursue racial justice inside and outside the Church.  With that intent, there is no comparative study for White churches.

 

Preparing the Way: Advent 2022

 

Preparing the Way: Advent 2022

How are you celebrating Advent 2022?

What will you do differently to usher in the most phenomenal event in the history of mankind:  the incarnation of God?   Advent should be more than participating in special Bible studies or in the lighting of Advent candles.  I’m afraid to say that I was guilty of both.

While thinking I was really doing something “spiritual” to usher in the true meaning of Christmas, I had allowed this sacred season to become “ritualistic routine”.  Advent, celebration of Christ’s explosion into human history, should be a time of excitement and spiritual awakening.  Just as Simeon and Anna faithfully awaited the long-prophesized Messiah (Luke 2:34-38), we too should be faithful and watchful as we hopefully prepare the way for the arrival of our Lord and Savior during this season of advent.

Time to prepare

One meaning for “prepare” means to construct or create as well as to furnish or equip. It often involves making a building, vessel, or object ready for use.  The second meaning for prepare means to make the necessary preparations for an event that will happen later.

Throughout the Gospels, prepare is used to describe the nearness of a great wedding or banquet feast, or even what will happen at the second coming of Jesus (Matthew 22:4,25;34,41).

The different aspects of “prepare”, calls us to:   1) make ourselves ready vessels or homes to receive Jesus and 2) to participate in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.[1]

Living in between

Living between Jesus’ First and Second Advent is a place of tension for us.  Although we know that Jesus’ first advent has occurred, how can we “prepare the way” to celebrate Advent for this year and beyond—even until Christ’s second return?

With joyful anticipation.  Anticipation is the act of looking forward.  Let us rekindle this emotion that generates joy and pleasure as we remember what Christ’s presence has meant to us.  In addition, let us allow our imagination to create new scenarios of possibilities as we think about “what is to come”.

Attentively waiting.  This is not mankind’s strongest attribute as attested by our impatience with people, places, and things.  Our busyness and overscheduled calendars have pushed us into believing that waiting is an indication of either a problem with “the system” or flaw in others.  Some things are worth waiting for.  Jesus is worth waiting for.

 With faithful preparation.  Let us become “ready vessels” to receive the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.  This begins with intimacy with God, meditating on His Word, and praying with “listening ears”.  Secondly, we must make ourselves “living sacrifices” to God—in humble submission including service to others.  Finally, we must faithfully prepare by aligning our thinking with “things above” (Col. 3:2).  It is our future hope of glory that will motivate us to be conformed to the image of Christ.

A Prayer for Advent

Advent, the coming of Jesus Christ, brings something the world alone can never provide—unconditional love for those who trust in Jesus as their Savior, unwavering faith that trusts in the sufficiency of God to meet every human need, and unquenchable hope that guarantees an inheritance in eternity future.  Love, faith, and hope—these are key benefits that come with the advent of Christ.  Joy and peace then follow as we abide faithfully in His presence.  All this and more are ours as we prepare the way for Christ.

Eternal God, we are seeking signs of your presence in our lives. Open our eyes, open our ears, open our hearts to receive your words of hope as we anticipate the coming of the One whom you are sending.

[1] Awaiting the Already, Magrey R. de Vega.

The Discipline of Waiting: Advent 2022

The Discipline of Waiting

Waiting

Advent season is a time of waiting.  Waiting by its very definition is challenging.  Waiting is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.   

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.  That why as believers, it is important to remember that Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith is worth waiting for.

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 we 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 2022

2022 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 us 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).

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.

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.

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 

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.

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?