Daily Devotionals for Advent 2008
The season of advent is one of the most meaningful times in the life of the church. It is a time to prepare for and to reflect upon the coming of Jesus Christ into our world and our lives. The devotionals contained in these pages have that as their purpose. As you read them and the passages related to them, take in the fullness of this Advent season. The hope, peace, joy and love of this season can truly be experienced as we open our hearts and our lives to God.
May we be filled with the love of Christmas this year.
Tommy Valentine, Pastor
The 2008 Advent Devotional Book is dedicated in honor of our church staff by the Joy Sunday School Class. These men and women are proficient in their individual field of ministry and serve faithfully to make Lexington Avenue Baptist Church a lighthouse in the city of Danville and throughout the world.
Fourth Week of Advent: Love
Thursday, December 25, 2008
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
I remember! I remember! The pain, exhaustion, first cries, overwhelming relief, incredible weight of responsibility, and enormous joy all wrapped up into a single moment as I gazed upon this new small life! I will never forget the captivating looks on each of our faces as we held each of our children for the very first time. Words cannot begin to express the emotions that flooded over both of us.
Something miraculous happens, doesn't it? Love like we have never experienced... happens.
So what was it like in the stable that day for Mary and Joseph? I know Mary felt pain, exhaustion, relief, and amazing joy as she heard Jesus' tiny cries and lovingly gazed upon this miraculous promise of God.
A miracle happened, didn't it? Love like we have never experienced... happened.
Joy to the World, the Lord has come; Let earth receive her king!
May you, too, ponder this miraculous gift of God this Christmas Day!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The waiting is over. Children can hardly be still enough to go to bed, anxious to see the gifts that will be left under the tree. Last minute gift buying, mailing of Christmas cards, wrapping of presents, the preparing of meals, all this and more fill this day with activities. But tonight it all comes to a close. Even in reading the Christmas story, you sense that this night brings a close to the waiting.
Christmas Eve is filled with wonder. You can almost sense it in the air. But maybe the wonder is not so much that the wait is over. Perhaps the wonder is that God could love you and me so much tht he would leave the glories of heaven and come and dwell among us - "God with us!"
So today and tonight, as you put the final touches on this Advent season, remember the waiting is over - God loves you!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be open upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
LOVE - What a perfect season to show our love - Christmas. Christ was born and then God gave us his only son in redemption of our sins. Christ paid an outrageous price for us - He rescued us. God is great, and does loving things through us. God loves to develop our faith by His word, His blessings, His protection in His love for us. We should never fear, never be offended because God is always with us. God shields us and guides us at all times. God is our greatest gift. This is what Christmas reminds me of, a perfect Holiday for showing our love, to our family, our friends, even our foes. This is what God would want from each of us, not only during this Holiday season but throughout the year. Leading by example in a Christian life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your gift of loving me. Help me to be strong and grateful. I will never fear because you are with me always! Your love shields me and guides me. Thank you for blessing me with my greatest gift - my Lord Jesus. Amen.
Monday, December 22, 2008
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
My mother passed on her appreciation of poetry to us children. One of my favorite childhood rituals was reading poetry aloud together. In my memory, we look like a scene straight from a Norman Rockwell painting. My brother, Mike, is seated on my right side - straight, tall, and serious. Pat is perched on the other side wearing a mischievous grin on his face. I, the youngest, sit in the middle balancing the gray volume of 1001 Best Loved Poems precariously on my lap. I'll never forget the night I read a poem to my brothers for the very first time.
So I guess it came as no surprise to those who know me well when I became an English teacher fired with a passion for inspiring her students with that same love of poetry. Every year in December I dusted off my Twelve Days of Christmas unit, sharing my favorite Christmas poetry with my classes and challenging them to commit passages to memory.
One of my favorites was a short poem entitled My Gift written by the nineteenth century British poet, Christina Rossetti. Actually, the poem is part of a longer work which was published after the author's death. You may recognize it as the last verse of the beloved Christmas carol, In the Bleak Midwinter.
What can I give Him,
Small as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part
Yet what can I give him -
Give my heart.
Rossetti's message resonates in my heart, and I pray, in the hearts of the students who have recited it over the years. Neither the contents of our Christmas packages nor the numbers on the price tag are of importance. What matters most is the intent of the giver.
In giving the heart, Christians live the life which is the simplest, most down-to-earth reflection of faith which is in the reach of everyone. In so doing, we all benefit and live a more complete life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Son. I offer you the gift of my heart. Amen.
Daughter of Alberta Moynahan
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Dear Friends, let us practice loving each other for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God and that they are getting to know him better. But if a person isn't loving and kind it shows that he doesn't know God - because God is Love. (1 John 4:7-8)
When I was walking down the aisle of my church (LABC) to make my profession of faith, I felt excited and joyful because I was becoming a Christian in God's home. I was so excited to realize that God had chosen me to be a Christian making me one of His children. Growing up I feel good knowing that I am one of God's children.
Prayer: Dear God, I have been blessed in so many ways during my life and having grandchildren is such a privilege. Due to the fact that my grandmother helped raise me and guided me in my spiritual walk, I have been determined to do the same for my grandchildren.
Your love continues to grow in me and my prayer is that my grandchildren will love you as well as those around them in their lives. Amen.
Third Week of Advent: Joy
Saturday, December 20, 2008
And when they had opened heir treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
There is great joy in choosing a gift carefully, matching the selection to the interests and lifestyle of the one who will receive it. When we find a gift that has significant symbolism or meaning, we are especially pleased.
The wise men brought special gifts to young Jesus - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold, a valuable, pure and incorruptible metal it is the element of kings. Frankincense, a resin requiring a slow and tedious extraction process was burned by the priests to make a fragrant aroma pleasing to God. The leaves of Myrrh were often used in embalming.
These gifts were special in their value, but they were also prophetic in their meaning, for in them we see the child Jesus being honored as the King, the High Priest and the Savior who would die. Each of these roles was essential to Jesus' ministry on earth.
What good gifts are you giving to Jesus this season? He is your King, your High Priest and your Savior. Return to Him the gift of your allegiance as His loyal subject, your sacrifices in holiness, and your humble praise to Him as the One who has rescued you from sin.
Prayer: Dear God: We thank You for giving Jesus Christ as a gift to everyone of us. Amen.
Friday, December 19, 2008
These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)
In human history, the joy of God comes into focus in the birth of Jesus Christ. The biblical accounts of Jesus' birth are filled with references to "joy". The most familiar passage is the angel's announcement of "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10). The songs that rang throughout heaven that wonderful night were the basis of so many of our Christmas carols that we sing today. Christmas and the birth of Christ is the most joyful and anticipated time of year for the Christian church. The shepherds were filled with joy when they found the baby Jesus in the manger. And the Wise Men traveled to Jerusalem with wonder and anticipation when following the star. After talking with Herod they were directed to Bethlehem and Matthew 2:10 tells us that when they saw the star again, they were overjoyed.
As a child, I can remember the wonderful joy and anticipation that filled my heart at Christmastime. Then it was excitement about giving and receiving gifts and the visit from Santa. As I grew older, I understood that Christmas was the time when God gave us, the people of this world, the greatest gift of all, His son Jesus Christ. Once we know Jesus as our personal saviour, our lives are filled with the joy of knowing and serving God. This is not something we can create of ourselves. It is the fruit of a right relationship with God. God loves us sand wants us to be happy but the only way to true happiness and joy is to be one with Christ. In John 15:11, Jesus says,"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
As you celebrate the joy of Christmas this year, remember the "reason for the season" and keep the joy in your heart.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (Philippians 2:1-2)
Love - Joy
Each of my four children has brought me so much love and joy. Think how pleased God must be to see us, his children, striving to live the way Christ taught us and joyously giving thanks for all our gifts from him and praising him for all things bright and beautiful.
About twenty-five years ago my mother and my youngest daughter and I went to Florida on vacation. One evening we went to S and S cafeteria for supper and as I glanced around the dining room I noticed a young man, alone, bowing his head in prayer at his table. As we sat down at our table I noticed him glancing our way, trying not to stare. When my daughter left the table for a few miniutes the young man came over to speak, very courteously, and said, "Ma'am, if that young lady is your daughter, she is the most beautiful girl I've ever seen." I was flattered as I thanked him and we exchanged first names. When she came back to the table we were laughing and I introduced her to John, calling him my new best friend. He looked at Darlene and said, "My name is John Lovejoy." They seemed to know right away that they were destined to build their lives together. Now they and their four children thank God every day for the love and joy they share. They gratefully share this love and joy to all they meet, inside and outside their church.
Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for your love for us and for the joy we have in serving you. Amen.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8b)
As I write this morning I'm also working on our children's Christmas Musical, An Island Christmas. It's a story about a group of kids who live on a Caribbean Island, find some buried treasure, and inside the treasure chest find a note that says:
"Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8b)
The kids discuss this in the following manner-
Kid 1 - "I think I learned that in Sunday School!"
Kid 2 - "Yes! We talked about how it's better to give than receive."
Kid 1 - "And here we are fighting over money when we have so much. We all have home, food, and even presents under the tree for Christmas."
Kid 2 - "There are so many people on this island that don't even have that."
Kid 1 - "Maybe we should think about how we can start giving this Christmas."
Then they sing this song:
Don't go scroogin' your way through the season;
It's all about sharing you see.
You would be a-wiser, not to be a miser;
Go a little crazy with your generosity.
Give a little love; give a little joy;
Give a little Christmas this Christmas.
Give a little hope; give a little peace;
Give a little Christmas this Christmas.
Prayer: Lord, may we go a little crazy this Christmas, giving gifts freely to those we know who need love, joy, hope, and peace. Amen.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Christmas, the definition is numerous. The definition we know the best is Christ's birth. When Christ came he came to teach others about God; he taught them the beliefs of God and they believed and were saved. Christ's birth is more than just a bedtime story, it's a life story that you and I will hear over and over. But you never get tired of it. Your favorite story may be "Noah's Ark" or "David and Goliath" but they never ever beat the story of Christ. When I go to church on Christmas Eve night I love it because we are all gathering in God's house. But also God has sent us there to celebrate Christ's birth. So this Christmas I challenge you to think of others, and Christ the most.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The angels said unto them, "We bring you great joy, that will be to all the people." (Luke 2:10)
As children in Sunday School and Junior choir we sang, "I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart", and we sang it with uplifted faces and mile-wide smiles. That joy gave us the "love of Jesus down in our hearts" and "the peace that passes understanding".
Many of our hymns speak of joy. An old hymnal lists 23 hymns with words of joy. We grew up singing.
A minister once shocked his congregation by asking that they sing "Joy to the World" on a July Sunday morning. Shouldn't that joy be celebrated all year long?
Moses taught the children of Israel to sing with joy as they traveled through the wilderness to the promised land.
So many of the songs (Psalms) that David wrote speak of joy. One special one is: "Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes in the morning."
As we celebrate this Christmas season, let us feel the joy that came to the shepherds, the remembered joys of our childhood singing and the joy that will come in our tomorrow.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for the joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as our Savior. Amen.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10)
As we travel around the world, we realize anew what the angel meant with the staement "be to all people." When we fill our Christmas boxes, it is a joy to imagine where each box might be going. Sometimes the child will receive the gift just before Christmas and sometimes it will be delivered at some distant date but imagine the smiles and joy as each child recives a real Christmas gift from a Christian friend from around the world. Last year we put a card in our boxes with our names and address. In August 2008, we received this e-mail from the pastor of a church in Zimbabwe.
This weekend my son Praise got a gift from Operation Christmas Child with your card in the shoe box. It was indeed all cheers and smiles from many children in our church.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Praise is four years old and we are in Zimbabwe. The gifts were distributed late because of the political situation.
I am the Pastor of the church.
God's love brought joy to the heart of a little four-year-old boy in Africa who received a Christmas gift, and joy to the hearts of many people in Danville, Kentucky who sent gifts through Operation Christmas Child.
When we do it for the least of his children, we are doing it for Him.
Prayer: Thank you Lord, for your servant, Franklin Graham and the work that he has made possible through Samaritan's Purse and Operation Christmas Child. We pray for your blessings of joy and peace for your children everywhere. Amen.
Kitty and Ernest Baird
Second Week of Advent: Peace
Saturday, December 13, 2008
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:13)
Our Christmas story begins with a message of peace from the angels who appeared to the shepherds. The Bible tells us Jesus used the word peace many times during his ministry.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
It was not until I experienced this promise of peace did I understand the word peace as promised through God's love. In July 2003 my life changed drastically. A family I loved told me they were moving away. The Rector family had been a large part of my life for four years. They lived in my home for nine months and a bond was formed making them like family. The girls called me Grandmauna and introduced me as their Kentucky grandmother.
Phil took me out to eat on that Sunday evening in July to break the news gently. My heart was broken and I felt like my world was shattered. To say I cried in the days to follow is an understatement. I cried for two days to the point of exhaustion. On Tuesday evening I went to bed with a heavy heart and again, I cried myself to sleep. I awakened the next morning to bright sunshine streaming into my bedroom, with the realization that I was filled with peace. A peace beyond my understanding. As I became aware of the feeling, I heard footsteps walking away from my bed. That was when I realized that the family's move was orchestrated by God and God had not forgotten me. After that, I totally accepted the move and was able to smile when it was announced in church on the following Sunday.
This peace, as promised by God was fulfilled by the birth of God's son, The Prince of Peace. As we enter the Advent season, let us stay focused on the reason for the season, and let us give thanks for our resources and our abilities to show our love for God.
Prayer: Thank you, God, that Your promise of peace was fulfilled on that Christmas morning so long ago. We thank You that we are able to celebrate the birth of Your Son in the church of our choice and in a land of freedom. Amen
Friday, December 12, 2008
Now may the Lord of Peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thes. 3:16 NIV)
There is a great deal of unrest around the United States and the world as I write this on Election Day 2008.
Will electing the right "candidates" or "party" bring peace?
Stop the war in Iraq? Or Afghanistan?
Will passing more legislation feed the hungry or provide shelter to the poor making them more peaceful?
Is peace the absence of war, conflict, spats, problems, or something else?
Is peace just "everybody getting along"?
How is peace gained?
If the Lord promises "peace at all time" then peace must be more than the absence of something. Peace during war? How is something like that possible?
A personal relationship with our Lord allows us to be at peace with Him and that bond will not be broken by Him. Only we can disconnect from our Lord, but we can plug back in because he will still be there. God would like us to be plugged in all the time. God desires that everyone be plugged in. "In every way" our Lord promises personl peace; if only we will just ask and let God!
Now - did who we elect give us any real peace? Is the world really different now?
Let us seek and discover real peace in the Kingdom of God "at all times and in every way".
Thursday, December 11, 2008
C arols all over
H oly day
R ed wrapping paper everywhere
I nns are full with people scrambling
S ongs in the churches
T wo turtle doves
M erryness in the air
A ll familys together
S adness is over, while happiness is not
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for all the things you have given and for your son, JESUS who died for all of us on the cross. And one day he might come back to earth and there will be alot more Christians on this earth and slavery and mistreating people won't come back again. And our earth will be peaceful. Amen
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Paul said, "For He Himself is our peace... Ephesians 2:14-15
"A heart at peace gives life to the body." Proverbs 14:30
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Col. 3:15
As I celeberate Christ's birth this year I praise him for being my peace. When God sent Jesus to this earth he sent us peace.
Life is hard. We look for peace. Disappointments, discouragements, harsh words, rejection, and demands often steal our peace. When I feel overwhelmed, I remember that Paul said, "for He Himself is our PEACE."
A quiet place is refreshing. A vacation restores our energy. Soothing music lifts our soul. Yet to find true peace for my soul in the midst of a storm I call on Jesus.
"He himself is our peace."
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you... Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
There are some really good things that come with aging. Oh, of course, there are wrinkles, the glasses, hearing aids, dentures, and when you sit down on the floor you have to have help to get up, but there are good things too.
One of those things for me has been the way that I feel about happiness. There was a time when I thought it was that excitement and thrill about life. Now, I much prefer the calm and paecefulness of life.
Some people think that peace is just the absence of conflict. However, I have discovered that you can find peace even when you feel like the world is crumbling around you. I feel like one of the things that happened when Jesus came to earth and died for us and then left us with the Holy Spirit, was that we could have that peace.
A favorite poem of my dad's was:
My life is but a weaving between my God and me;
I do not choose the colors; He worketh steadily.
Full oft He worketh sorrow, and I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper and I the under side.
When we trust God no matter what happens and leave everything in His hands, then we have peace.
Jesus said in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you... Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the peace that passeth all understanding. We know this peace comes when we accept your Son as our Savior. Amen.
Monday, December 8, 2008
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth good will toward men. (Luke 2:13)
Those who venture into the cataclysmic future are bold and have no fear that their predictions for the end of time are based upon Biblical insights. Jesus, in one of His teaching sessions, said plainly that no one but His Father knew when this time would occur. Since that time, we have been exposed to decades of predictions, made by prognosticators who evidently felt that Jesus, being perfect in both His humanity and Divine status, somehow missed the clear signals of the end-time and it behooves them to encourage us to ignore what Jesus said and listen to them.
Each one of them, over a long span of years, has been wrong. A prophet is that one who is never wrong. One missed prediction and the prophecy becomes invalid along with that one who was certain of the ground upon which the finite foundation rested.
We continue to live in tumultuous times that are presently characterized by political ploys, financial upheaval, societal mores that are being replaced by the ever insistent demand that life must become more informal.
The clanging of this universal and incessant bell, that alerts us to the world's condition, tends to take from each of us any facet of peaceful habitation. We say we live in peace, but little in America is presently a placid example of our daily lives. The pressures of expectation, job performance, retirement packages, cost of living, etc. pounds, like a blacksmith's hammer, on the anvil of our brains and we reel, in dizzying formations of unrest, from the surprises of life.
Where once we slept the sleep of peaceful repose we now toss and turn on the spittle of life's rotating gyrations that keep the heat of unrest directed toward our efforts to be at peace. In our best moments we learn that peace is no longer that which characterizes our towns, cities, churches, schools, society, and government. There is, in today's daily expenditure of time and effort, an unrest that filters into our lives. We are not so much at peace with the world as we are victims of circumstance. It is in the midst of this friction that we yearn for peace.
Long ago, Jesus came into the world in which we now live. It is at this time of each year that Christians pause to celebrate the Advent of His arrival and portent of His life. His birth was far more than the arrival of a child. His birth was the arrival of salvation for humanity. Since Adam, peace, as a once cherished Divine expectation for Eden has been that for which mankind has sought. As life continues, peace as that which once we might have thought was ours, escapes us through the machinations of evil concepts that emanate in the minds of those who are corrupt.
This year, the Advent or arrival of Jesus confronts us, once again, with our inability to find peace. The simplicity of procuring it and holding it as an inheritance is encased in His words of wisdom: "Peace I leave with you. My peace, I give unto you."
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of Passage?
His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone.
Once he survives the night, he is a MAN. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.
The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man!
Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.
We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him. (COPIED)
Prayer: May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.
First Week of Advent: Hope
Saturday, December 6, 2008
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Most of us use the word "hope" every day. "I hope it doesn't rain"; "I hope the check comes today"; "I hope I feel better soon"; and on and on. Even though "hope" is in our vocabulary we probably never give much thought to the deeper meaning of the word and especially how it is used in Scripture and how it relates to Advent.
The psalmist said in Psalm 42:5 that when his soul in downcast, he will put his hope in the Lord.
Israel had sinned against God and again the psalmist admonishes, "O Israel, put your hope in the Lord for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. (Psalm 130:7)
Jeremiah reminded the exiles in Babylon that God the Lord had plans for them, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 23:10b)
The New Testament writers point us to Christ, the hope of glory. Paul writing to the church at Rome, said, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)
The Advent season for us focuses on the babe in the manger, the first coming of Jesus into the world. But there will be a second coming described in Titus 2:13 as the blessed hope - "the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own...".
May we be ready for this second Advent!
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for Jesus' first coming as a babe in the manger; for his thirty-three years on the earth teaching us how to live; and for the anticipation of his glorious second coming when we will be taken to heaven to live with him for eternity. Amen
Friday, December 5, 2008
Some 2,000 years have passed since the writings and life of John the disciple, the last person known biblically - as the writer of Revelation - to have actually been connected intimately with Jesus Christ, i.e., the last recorded person to have seen and heard, respectively, the actions and words of Christ and conversed with him one on one. Revelation essentially ended the short New Testament record, in which is recorded Jesus interacting with those around him. God, according to the long Old Testament record, tangibly worked with people, such as when he virtually argues with Moses in the episode of the "burning bush" and scared the Israelites half-to-death with his actions upon the delivery of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai - fire, thunder, lightning, trembling mountain, ear-splitting trumpet-blasts and a voice loud enough to be heard in the next county.
In other words, neither the Israelites nor others who knew/observed God/Christ had any reason to doubt the divine existence. They saw and heard. With regard to that circumstance, such is not the case today. One dictionary definition of faith is belief and trust in and loyalty to God. Another definiton: firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Paul said that the things that "abide" (or endure) are faith, hope, and love, so, while he designated love as the greatest, faith is part of the bedrock under-girding belief. Yet, the above definitions seem to contradict each other. How does one believe in and exercise loyalty to God when there's been no tangible proof of his existence for two millennia?
The accounts having to do with Christmas mean nothing to people, absent their faith, other than a belief in the historical records, mainly put forth in scripture, though secular historians/archeologists have verified much of its factual content. With normal people, faith (belief, trust) is an exercise of the mind. From the Old Dispensation through the life and times of Christ, God proved his reality tangible, the mind of the believer/observer being mostly a recorder of his undeniable existence.
Paul never wrote of seeing Jesus but of hearing him - the Damascus-road vision - though he observed some miracles and talked with the disciples, so faith would not seem to have been hard for him to have, but perhaps through divine auspices he was given the knowledge that faith after Christ's generation would be an exercise of the mind not as recorder but as a constant process of belief eventuating in loyalty ot God, with the proof of God already having been irrefutably presented, but with God not tangibly recognizable now.
Paul's admonition in Romans 12:2, then is instructive: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will (NIV). The miraculous elements of Advent represent God's renewal of life for his creation. The miraculous renewal of the mind identifies that renewal fo life daily, inducing/inculcating FAITH, and that recognition is the joy of the season. Joy to the world, the Lord is come...all ye faithful!
A former member of Lexington Avnue Baptist Church
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Waiting for Hope
"Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Selah
Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
"But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:4-7)
Time for Hope was running out - for Hope the cat that is. The good doctor, Butch, told us there was not much we could do for her. He told us she only had a few days left. So we waited for Hope. We didn't know what day, but we knew the day was coming soon when Hope would no longer be with us, so we waited and watched.
Interesting how this kind of waiting works on you. Sitting in a chair in the garage next to her, I wondered. "Is this the night?" "What does a cat with only a few days left think about?" I remembered. Hope was Brittany's cat and for sixteen years wherever Brittany was, there was Hope. Hope was originally a gift to Dianne's mother when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Thus the name, "Hope". Just a few months later, Dianne's mother died of cancer and we adopted Hope. So, waiting there in the garage with Hope, reminded me of my mother-in-law's beautiful smile, her loving hugs, and her delicious meals. I remembered some of our last conversations as she waited for a day.
Advent is a season of waiting for hope - waiting not for an ending, but for a beginning. Advent is a time of waiting, watching, reflecting, and remembering. We relive the longing of Israel for the coming of the Messiah. So during Advent we wait for the coming of hope - born as a baby; named Jesus; lived and taught; died and rose again. Advent is the coming hope that death is not the end and a loving God waits for us.
"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you" (Psalm 39:7)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Someone once said... "prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
In the book of Luke when the angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, he "was startled and was gripped with fear." Later in the chapter when the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary she became "greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be." When God's angels approached his people Zechariah and Mary, they reacted with fear. They prepared for the worst.
Often times in our lives fear is followed by hope. Hope is an amazing thing and somehow, someway, changes how we live through the events of our lives. Hope is unique because it deals with the unknown. The future. It is impossible to hope for something that has already occurred. While it is possible to hope an event from our past will have a positive outcome in our future, we are still hoping for tomorrow.
Maybe this Advent season 2008 we can adopt what I like to call "Brave Hope". Brave hope moves inside us no matter what life lessons we are currently learning. Brave hope happens through us not to us. Brave hope demands we extend ourselves emotionally in spite of the score. Brave hope expects us to battle on through the challenges of life, even if we must fight alone. Brave hope continues to believe life is our journey and God is the destination.
At Christmas in 1983 my mother said to me..."David, always dream big dreams for what God has for your life." This Christmas give the gift of hope. Help someone dream big dreams, for what God has for their life.
A Prayer of Hope for you-
The angel of the Lord told Zechariah, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayers have been heard." The angel Gabriel told Mary, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God." May God tell you- "your prayers have been heard and may you find favor with God."
Be The Best!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
"Faith is being sure and steady, trusting what you know deep inside." I came across this statement and was reminded of the faith that carried me through the days that Dad was in ICU at UK hospital.
Even though his injuries were life threatening...Even though the doctors could not tell us if he would survive...I had faith. I had faith that no matter what, things would be okay, that the Lord would not give me more than I could withstand, and faith in knowing He was with me.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Those days by far, were not easy. Each day seemed more difficult than the last.
I sat by Dad's bed for days when he was unconscious. I read him the Bible and talked to him as if he knew I was there. Everyone urged me to go home and rest. They said he probably couldn't hear me and wouldn't even know I was there. Nonetheless, I remained by his side in faith that the Lord would not only give dad a miraculous recovery but would also provide for my own needs.
Well, they were right about one thing. Dad never knew I was there. It took him awhile to even know who I was. But, surely somewhere inside he heard my prayers, scripture reading, and encouraging words. For the first things dad spoke of were "how good the Lord has been" to him.
Faith is being sure and steady, trusting what you know inside. Faith is our shield. Faith is not just believing in God. Faith is knowing God.
Prayer: Lord, I pray for the courage to step out in faith. Help me to discern your will and use my life Lord to do your good works. Amen.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Happy is he whose hope is in the lord his God. (Psalms 146:5)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
This past September was one of the highlights of my year. We had the privilege of sharing our home with two members of the Morocco team, Basille and Carlos. During their stay allowed us to have many conversations with them about their personal faith and experiences - one of which is being a Christian living in an Islamic country. The most meaningful time during their stay was on a Sunday night. That day we had lost electricity throughout the city which lasted into the night. We came home to a dark house after attending a reception at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church. We were not able to turn on our television as we usually do when we walk into the house. I had to light a candle just so we could see. It was hot so we all decided to go out to the screened-in porch where there was a cool breeze. We spent the next two hours just talking about our hopes and dreams for the future as a partnership church. We talked about building on our friendship and working together. (There is strength in numbers.) We have to look beyond our own personal circumstances and find a way to be that one Ray of Hope and Light for the thousands of refugees coming across the Sahara Desert.
We have the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of many refugees. As they travel across the desert with hopes and dreams for a better life, we have the ability to help with their spiritual and physical needs just like Jesus did while he was on earth. His promise give us all hope.
Prayer: Dear Lord, give us a heart like yours that we may share your love and compassion to those in need. Amen
Sunday, November 30, 2008
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)
I CHOOSE LOVE . . .
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love.
Today I will love God and what God loves.
I CHOOSE JOY . . .
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical . . .
the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings,
created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I CHOOSE PEACE . . .
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.
I CHOOSE PATIENCE . . .
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.
I CHOOSE KINDNESS . . .
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid.
And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I CHOOSE GOODNESS . . .
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast.
I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.
I CHOOSE FAITHFULNESS . . .
Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates
will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.
I CHOOSE GENTLENESS . . .
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise.
If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I CHOOSE SELF-CONTROL . . .
I am a spiritual being . . .After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by my God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.
Prayer: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.
When God Whispers Your Name