Archive for December, 2014
“And there was a prophetess, Anna…She was advanced in years…and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four…She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers” (Luke 2:36-37).
It seems like it would have been easy to quit; to just give up; to assume that because God has done nothing, he never will. Yet, both the personal and public devotion of Anna reflect an ever-abiding hope. Most assume life is limited to the way things are; hope looks to the possibilities based upon God’s promises. Anna is our model for breathing hope into the lives of those who have come to think there is none.
“This man was righteous and devout, looking of the consolation of Israel”…”And (she) continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25,38).
Both Simeon and Anna possessed a quality of faith we would do well to emulate. Their’s was a faith that continually looked forward to the unfolding purposes of God. They remind us that God is not one to be grasped and held but, rather, is to be continually sought. The closer we draw to Him the more He becomes our longing and passionate pursuit. Faith is not a static event but a dynamic relationship.
“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:12).
Perhaps the greatest detriment to the deeper life is the tyranny of the urgent; that immediate gratification is the only thing worth experiencing. Thus, too many would never consider planting a tree unless they could eat of its fruit. The redemptive purposes of God were not completed in a day but through the generations. What we do as the community of faith must have far greater implications than just the moment. We are laying foundations for those who would come after us.
“The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you” (2 Samuel 7:11).
While David’s desire to build a temple seems noble, it is but an example of the tendency of man to localize, politicize, institutionalize, and commercialize God. As usual, such thinking is too small and self-serving. God’s vision is for a spiritual temple; built by the power of his Spirit through the lineage of David, culminating in the person of Christ and the new covenant with his Church. It’s a view of faith that sees beyond the personal desires of the moment to the needs of the generations that will follow. Faith isn’t a settled life and must always lean forward. It is an inevitable death for any church when placating the preferences of those who attend displaces our passion for reaching those who don’t.
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).
After four weeks of Advent reflection, focusing upon the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love, the anticipation of it all can now be reduced down to this one simple, hope-filled Christmas day message–God With Us. Every other world religion was founded by a leader espousing a way to find God. Christmas day ushered in the One entitled to say, “I am God and I’m here to find you.” That he is with us infuses everyday with Christmas miracle possibilities.
“I wait patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).
Patiently, or impatiently, the children have been waiting. Every child knows that tomorrow is Christmas day. The anticipation of what they might find under the tree is reaching its crescendo. Throughout scripture the heavenly Father tells his children to wait patiently. The Advent season is but another reminder that God is always doing more. Waiting keeps us going into the future that he has in store.
“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’” (John 3:4).
Every tombstone is marked by a date of birth, a date of death, and a dash in between. Someone has remarked that the quality of life is determined by what you do with your one dash in life. Scripture, however, would argue for another hyphen in the equation. If life is to be truly known and lived then there must be not only a birth, but a rebirth. One initiates life; the other eternal life. One hyphen summarizes a life that was. The additional hyphen of new birth captures the life that is becoming more and cannot be captured on a tombstone.
“But you will be called the priests of the Lord; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6).
What do a tax collector, prostitute, skeptic, and a thief all have in common? They are examples of the very people to whom Jesus ministered and proclaimed good news. Like our Savior, who role-modeled the life of service, we who are called priests and ministers (a reference to every disciple of Jesus) no longer have the benefit of living and acting out of self-interest. Ours has become an existence of intersecting with people from every walk of life that we might be His presence. We do not get to pick and choose those with whom we interact. He does.
“Then you will say on that day, ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord; for although You were angry with me, You anger is turned away, and You comfort me’” (Isaiah 12:1).
The assurance of God’s word is that there will be another day; that no matter the depth of pain, grief, sorrow, or adversity, you will emerge out the other side. With the experiences of life and the words of scripture that speak of another day that is coming, I have come to realize that we do not “get through” our hardships as much as we “go through” them. To think that we “get through” something gives the false impression that things will be as they once were. A more accurate truth is, after we have “gone through” something painful it leaves us forever changed.
“I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
The church desperately needs to reimagine and rediscover the demeanor by which the redeemed of the Lord should be recognized. While the prophet depicts the community of faith as a wedding party; sadly, we too often offer the appearance of a funeral party. Somehow scowls and frowns have been allowed to replace the fruit of the Spirit as the true signs of authenticity.