Category Archives: Advent

Psalm 119:49-56 ז Zayin – Weapon

Today the section title of Psalm 119 is ז Zayin – Weapon.
49 Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
52 When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law
54 Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
56 This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts. ESV

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It’s two days before Christmas and “ז Zayin – Weapon” definitely is NOT where my heart wants to be.  I want Bethlehem, a Holy baby and love, not weapons.  Mankind has provided plenty of weapons for both defense and offense and plenty of desire to use them.  Despite my reaction to it’s title, this section brims with testimony of God actively arming His people with a different kind of “weapons” to protect and defend their minds as well as their eyes and hearts long before the birth of Christ.  My challenge is to a) read and write the verse backwards as I have been doing and b) to look for evidence in them of God’s determined revelation of Himself that we celebrate this Advent, 2020.  

For my own clarification about laws and weapons:
law is the system of rules enforced by the authority with the intention of regulating human behavior for the common good.
statute is a legal document that declares a specific law, expressed in writing.
A precept is a rule dictating a way you should act or behave.

49 You have made me hope as you remind me of your Word.
God has reminded me through the birth of Christ of His own hope for His own creation through His own determination to place Himself in the midst of our world as a way to protect and defend our lives.

50 Your promise comforts my affliction and gives me life. 
Jesus is God’s promise of comfort revealed in human form as a newborn that Luke 2 reminds us “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” to redeem the sins of my afflictions with His love.

52 O Lord, I take comfort when I think of your rules from of old.
I don’t always feel comforted by rules but I do recognize they are a hedge of restraint around me until I come “to my senses.”   Jesus was the “Door” opened to new freedom to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

53 The wicked who forsake your law cause hot indignation to seize me.
The first Law of God to regulate human behavior is to love Him.  Hot indignation rarely affects the wicked but it’s certainly the fire that can destroy the ability to love. 

54  In this house where I sojourn your statues are my songs.
Our sojourn is the brief span of life we’re given by God for the express purpose learning the words and the music of God’s love song for us, Jesus the Christ.

55 I keep your law O Lord, and remember your name in the night.
I remember that little town of Bethlehem.  I remember the circumstances of life where your answer to regulating human behavior for the common good was revealed in Law of Love, Jesus, born in the likeness of man.

56 I have kept your precepts and this blessing has fallen on me.
I have pledged to let your Law of Love dictate my actions and behavior.  The blessing that has fallen on me this Advent, 2020 is that “God With Us,” is the Law of Love you’ve given to protect and defend my life here and now and forever.

A Wake Up Call to Wonder – Luke 2:8-12

Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

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As I read this passage from Luke I couldn’t help but compare that first Christmas to today.  “Normal” Christmas is filled with a lot of beautiful imagery that fills my head.  Today as I reread the actual circumstances of that night, I’ve been reminded this is not a “normal” year and Advent this year is not just a preparation, it’s a wake-up call to “Wonder.”  Centuries of hindsight have eclipsed the realities of that night in the middle of nowhere when the Glory of the Lord lit up the sky for a very frightened group of shepherds.  Their story has become a window for us to see that while God chose to send them His promise  in a frightening blaze of holiness, they responded to the wonder of God in an ordinary way despite their fear and the harsh realities of their circumstances.  That is what has given them their special place in our history.  

The story of the birth of “a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” triggers beautiful romantic images for me of a newborn baby with a halo of light about His head.   I hear the romance of my own history in the angel’s words “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  The circumstances of Advent in the Year of our Lord, 2020 have reminded me God chose to fulfill the dramatic promise from the angel in what appeared to be a far more ordinary way.   “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  That still matters.

There’s an old story of a European ruler who would sneak away and walk among his people incognito.  It drove his security people nuts but his response was “I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live.”   The reality of the ordinary birth of Jesus Christ is that God found a way to walk among His people “incognito.”  Christmas began with what appeared to be an ordinary baby…wrapped in ordinary swaddling clothes…from ordinary parents…in an ordinary stable…for ordinary people.

God has triumphed through the ordinary record of Luke’s story to remind me He will redeem Christmas again this year.  During these last few days of Advent, despite the harsh realities of darkness, pain and loss, the Wonder of God can still appear in the reality of the ordinary and encourage us to respond.  “And this shall be a sign unto you…”

• Ordinary Christmas lights twinkling everywhere as a visible reminder “the glory of the Lord shone round about them.”
• The ordinary music of Christmas audibly breaking through the noise of life with different angelic words that remind us to respond “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
• The ordinary seasonal 
“Merry Christmas” greeting taking on new meaning this year as a way for us to remind each other to “Fear not,” God is with us.
• Ah, and those bell-ringers with red kettles are surely angels of God that remind us that He will turn what appears to be an ordinary gift into into “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

Likeness

Romans 8:3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. NASB

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This week an interesting discussion about the word “likeness” became the catalyst for fresh look at Romans 8 and part of a previous Advent post from 2015.  We all know what the “Law could not do.”  It couldn’t change us and even those first two people couldn’t manage to obey it.

“What a surprise to find myself in my favorite chapter from the whole Bible for my Advent reading today.  If you remove the “religiousity” factor of laws you have to admit we can’t live without them.  We need laws to create order and some level of security in our society.  I’ll bet I’m not the only one that’s broken some of them: ever rolled through a stop sign?  That’s an easier-to-swallow version of “weak as it was through the flesh” to own up to.  Now that our minds are in the right place maybe we can face the issue of “sinful flesh”…and “in us.”a   

Eden was where “weak as it was through the flesh” became a reality.  There was only one law but the bad choice to violate it was where the separation between man and God began.  [BTW that’s not unlike that stop sign.]  The amazing truth of Advent is God chose new birth to fulfill something that one “first” law was unable to accomplish.  

Advent is pretty dramatic evidence of the second time God created perfection for all mankind to experience.  The birth of Jesus revealed God’s determination to redeem and replace what had been lost in Eden.  This time perfection was a person, not a place.  That first Advent God chose a baby, His Son…God with us…Jesus, to restore His own “Image” within “the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.”  Advent is our annual reminder that Jesus is the reality of God’s promise to unite the likeness of our sinful flesh with His own Image “in us.”

a Click here to read that original post

God Was THERE!

Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. [NIV]

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I’ve mentioned before that words spark thought for me.  Today was an interesting variation on that.  I read verse eight several times before I realized I’d been subconsciously adding the word [IN] before the word “darkness.” Dropping the [IN] and reading “you were once darkness” changed my whole perspective on what I’d read.  It has reminded me this Word is not only timeless but it’s still alive and well. Darkness is not a place I was “IN”  but the far more ugly reality of “what I was.”  It says it right there but I missed it.

I re-read those verses thankful for the specific words of hope I found there, words like “now you are light in the Lord” and “the fruit of the light.”  The emphasis on “WHAT I was” [darkness] has now been dramatically changed because of God’s intervention through Jesus in my life to “what I WAS [past tense].  “Once darkness” was changed to “the fruit of the light” and that is the joyful connection to Advent I share with you in December, 2020.

That first “Advent” in Bethlehem was God’s intervention in the world He’d created.  His choice was to make Himself visible once more to redeem His people and free them from their dependence on their own best efforts to dispel the darkness that plagued their lives.  Jesus was born to reveal God’s promise to ordinary people who were “once darkness.”  The “Advent of Light” could forever change their emphasis from knowing “there was GOD” [hope] into the new reality that “God was THERE!”

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Birth of Faith

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.


Every year during December we see the signs of Christmas around us, wreathes, trees, lights and baubles. Advent encourages us to watch for another kind of sign.  A sign from the Lord himself that leads us to the cradle again this year to give our own witness to the birth of Christ.  Information is one gift the Bible has given us.  It paints a vivid picture of the perfect and glorious outcome of that journey of the pregnant virgin and that carpenter to that first cradle and the finally the Birth of Faith, Jesus. That’s what I give thanks for but I believe I may have overlooked another reality to be thankful for.  It’s the reality of their tough circumstances and simple obedience that ultimately led to another kind of birth, the birth of my faith.  This year I want to imagine and give thanks for their long, hard days on dusty roads and the fatigue, discomfort and inconvenience of travel.  I want to appreciate the reality of the relief and gratitude they felt sinking into a pile of smelly straw in a barn at the end of their journey.  It was not a perfect situation but they would become part of a perfect plan.  I want to be grateful for that too.  That pregnant virgin and that carpenter have walked through the words of the prophets, through history, into Bethlehem and now into my life this year to become the Lord’s sign for me of the reality that the Birth of Faith can happen in the most unusual places and circumstances.

Originally posted November 30, 2015

 

The Power of DNA

John 15:13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

I ended my last post, Love Story, with this statement “His [Jesus] own future on earth began with His willingness to trust that the humanity He entered would become a part of building His life on earth so that His love would become their salvation.”  That reality of Advent explains John 15:13 too.  But wait, there’s more to the story.  

Culturally those connections are of great interest today.  We’ve “discovered” DNA [a self-replicating material present that’s the carrier of genetic information] that confirms connections that have been lost in our lives.  I know because it’s happened to me both on a real life level and spiritually.  Jesus entered a world He’d been part of creating.  In that long ago moment He surrendered His place of intimacy with God to choose companionship with humanity in the flesh.  The cradle was where Jesus willingly laid down His own sovereign authority to become the “perfect” rebirth of God’s genetic connection with mankind for the second time.  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus’s birth is our annual reminder that same redemptive DNA has been replicated in each of us.  Within us lies the power of Jesus to transform and save those who will abide with Him.

First Sunday of Advent

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in [accept and act in accordance with] my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. [NRSV]

This year my Advent posts are going to be like one of those mystery TV shows that begin with the solution and then proceeds to lay out the evidence.  My advent begins with the assumption verse 10 is the solution.  I plan to continue searching verse-by-verse for evidence that reveals why Jesus Christ deserves the repeated annual observation we call Advent.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to find.  We have this book of His-tory and John is the recognized expert on Christology [Christian theology relating to the person, nature, and role of Christ].  Expert witness testimony is an important part of the solution to every mystery.  

What are the commandments Jesus is referring to?  There’s a long list you can find with an internet search but John 13:34 has recorded this from my first witness, Christ himself; “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”  

My second expert today is the Apostle Paul with evidence that supports Jesus’s new commandment. “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4

There’s more than beauty to the Advent story that makes it important.  God provided a solution to the mystery of life in that cradle that could remind us every year He offers so much more than what we know to expect.  Jesus is the reality of our salvation, growth and “abiding” in His and God’s love.  My third witness today is John Piper from Come Thou Unexpected Jesus: “Jesus was long expected. But when and how and where and why he came were all unexpected…He did not come to meet [our] expectations but to love [us] in the ways [we] most desperately needed…[that’s] the place [we] are most likely to really adore him.” [edited]

Special Gift of Access

I’m diverting from II Corinthians because at the moment you’re reading this I’m on the high seas for a 3-day cruise but thanks to WordPress I can schedule this story and at the appointed time [I hope] it will be told.

Thank you Lord  for the image of “your” new life, your Son, lying in a Cradle of circumstances.  This time of preparation shows us how important this annual pilgrimage is to our celebration of that birth and that Cradle.  It was your own preparation for us that made Advent a celebration at all and Jesus your special gift of access for us.

We all enter the Kingdom of God through that same Cradle: another “new” life born in the midst of a broken world.  The Cradle still contains the memory of God’s preparation.  It still holds the promise of what new life can become through the stories of wise men, shepherds and angels, even in a still-broken world.  That Cradle is the shelter of God’s provision for us when there doesn’t seem to be room for us anywhere else.  This annual journey shows us one more time where we’ve come from,  where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.  There will be emotional and physical joy and hardship involved in that journey but…

• We have wise men today that have found their special path to that Cradle to offer their treasure and then share their story with us so we can follow and find our way too.

• We have shepherds today who despite their own fears rise and boldly share your Story.

• We have angels in our lives who sing your praises and share your promises of renewal, restoration and grace that prepare us to recognize and receive your gift of forever…again this year.

It’s glorious to remember isn’t it?

Second Chance

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44b…If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
1 Corinthians 15

Remember this saying? You never get a second chance to make a first impression? Our first impression of life happened when God picked up a handful of dust and “The first man Adam became a living being.” It was a dramatic miracle of life that became a dramatic loss when broken and banished became “natural.” Fast forward to a much later time; a world filled with people who carried that same first impression of loss. “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural.”

God placed The Advent in that cradle long ago as a sign of faith in his creation and to reveal his plan to restore the miracle of that first creation. A baby would show the reality that new life is dependent on time, growth and nurture. This baby, “the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” would be our second chance to overcome that first impression of broken and banished…”and after that the spiritual.”

Reality

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28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 5

We celebrate Advent as a season of Good Tidings of Great Joy, but there’s more to that reality. God purposefully chose to send his only son, Jesus, to live among us knowing the dark and painful realities that lay ahead. There would be no reason to celebrate at all if weren’t for God’s intervention – the birth of “The” Advent – into a world full of broken, “weary and burdened”…and desperate people.

That came back full force when I decided to look back at past journal entries for December 14 and found this startling and heartbreaking event from Advent, 2012.

“The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members.”

Sandy Hook broke many hearts then, including mine. I wouldn’t have chosen the memory of that massacre for this Advent but sometimes it’s the gaps in a broken heart that make room for remembering the reality of why “The” Advent still matters today. Come into my heart Lord Jesus.