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God’s Gift: Fulfillment

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Day 25 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Merry Christmas! May the peace and love of Christ light your day with joy.

Bible Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

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Joseph’s Dream in the Stable, Rembrant, 1645.

Joseph, a man trying to do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord through His law. Probably heartbroken.  His betrothed appears sullied, unclean, a liar even.

Even in his hurt he shows mercy.

In the dream from the Lord, he’s given the explanation and the instruction. And like Abraham many centuries before him, he doesn’t question.  He simply puts one foot in front of the other to move the way God last told him.

It doesn’t make sense. But he’s assured that it is part of the fulfillment of the Lord.  So, in the time of waiting, he does it.

Thought for today:

As you wait, what is the last instruction you received from God?

How can you feel confident, even in uncertainty, in moving forward with that instruction?

Like Joseph, do you need to show mercy?

God doesn’t owe us any explanation, but He will give us enough instruction to move forward.  The strength it takes to move one foot in front of the other while we wait comes from the Lord.  He will take all we do in His confidence and exalt it.

God’s Gift: Evidence

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Day 24 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-38

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Annunciation scene from Jesus of Nazareth, Franco Zeffirelli, 1977.

Mary, mother of Jesus.

But in these verses, she’s just a girl.  A troubled girl at that. She heard a proclamation that seems impossible; it goes against everything she understands about the world.

But Gabriel provides evidence that nothing is impossible in God’s hands. . .that this is not to be understood by the world’s standards.

Mary claims her servanthood to the Lord.  She claims her part in a plan much bigger than herself despite the earthly ramifications she is sure to face.

She puts her faith in God.

Thoughts for today:

Can you recall a time when God provided you with evidence to ease your heart?

How does the gift of evidence prove that God understands our human-ness?

God created us.  He understands our needs better than we do. He knows when we need reassurance.  In your time of waiting, don’t be hesitant to ask God for that evidence. He wants to give us all that He has.

God’s Gift: Preparation

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Day 23 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Matthew 3:1-6

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John the Baptist, Juan de Juanes, c. 1560

A season of waiting does not negate the need to prepare.  John the Baptist extols that need.

Repent–make radical changes to prepare yourself for the coming of God’s kingdom. Make straight the path for Christ to follow into your heart.

Preparation takes work.  It is not merely sitting in the quiet, though that is part of the task to hear God’s voice.  It is taking the knowledge of His promises and the evidence of His blessings and putting them to use.  

God worked to prepare the way for Christ’s coming. We should follow His example.

Thoughts for today:

Do you find it easy in a time of waiting to become lax in your own preparation?

In what area of your life are you waiting for something to change?

What could you do today that would be active preparation during your waiting?

Our body, mind, and soul need to be prepared for all that God calls us to.  It takes work to make each of these elements stronger. God, help us to do the work that is required to be strong in You during Advent.

God’s Gift: Favor

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Day 22 of Advent and God’s Gift, an advent devotional I wrote in the past year to help me work through my personal grief.

Bible Reading: Luke 1:5-25

Moving closer to the birth of Christ, John comes to Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Advent, the season of waiting, is mirrored in the waiting of Zechariah and Elizabeth for their child.

Even in the midst of what many saw as divine disfavor through their childless marriage, they remained upright and followed the Lord’s commandments. They waited.

And when the seemingly impossible was bestowed they continued to wait in the presence of the Lord and His favor, His approval.

Thoughts for today:

Have you ever sought the approval of someone?

What actions did you engage to try and achieve that favor?

How can maintaining the commandments help you remain in God’s favor?

How can doing things in love help you remain in God’s favor?

God approves of us.  He created us and it was good.  But it is our responsibility to do our part to maintain that favor.  While we can do nothing to earn His grace, we can do much to remain in His love. We need His guidance and His commandments to continue to remain upright in His presence.  May we be like Zechariah and Elizabeth as we wait.

God’s Gift: Hope

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Day 21 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Habakkuk 2:1, 3:16-19

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Image: public domain

Standing on the tower–waiting and watching. . .doing it with the knowledge that destruction is probable.

But, hope.

Hope is a powerful equalizer.  It lifts up despair, and like Habakkuk declares, makes one sure-footed, confident, as a deer.

There is hope even in the midst of the trials coming, or the trials now.  There is hope in the promises of God, in the evidence of blessings He has provided. 

There is hope in God’s sovereignty.

Thoughts for today:

How does remembering God’s promises help you have hope?

While you wait, what do you do to nurture hope?

Our God does not leave us in despair.  He provides us with a hope and peace that is very different from the rest of the world.  We can be confident in that hope. Sure-footed as we move forward in our time of waiting.  He will direct our paths.

God’s Gift: Tenacity

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Day 20 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible reading: Esther 4:10-17

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 image from One Night with the King, 2006, directed by Michael O. Sajbel

Esther is my favorite Old Testament book and this is my favorite passage. . .”For such a time as this.”

God’s plans and thoughts are higher than our own.  We have no way of knowing or understanding what He orchestrates when we are in the thick of it.  But we can have peace–wholeness–knowing that where and when we are can be for His glory in such a time as this.

Esther faced the unknown with this peace, granting her tenacity to address the king and possible death.  She did not deny her Father. And He had her in an environment that would reveal His power.

Thoughts for today:

In your season of waiting, is God asking you to step out in faith to face an uncertainty?

We may not understand why God has us where He does at the moment.  It could be a job, a relationship, a medical condition. But we can be certain that He is granting us the power to glorify Him in this time.

God’s Gift: His Choice

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Day 19 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Micah 5:2-5

“Though you are small.”

What a significant phrase because we so often feel small in God’s great plan.  How can we ever do something that measures against the patriarchs, the martyrs, the church leaders?

But praise Him that we don’t have to!

Though you are small you are one for God.  God chose the smallest of nations for His son’s earthly birth.  

Though you are small, you will do great things through God’s anointing.

He has chosen YOU!

Thoughts for today:

What emotions do you experience when you are the one picked?

How can you bless others with that same sensation?

How can you help others understand that they too have been chosen by God?

Thank God that this life is not a schoolyard game of kick-ball where the captains alternate picking their teams and you just hope you’re not picked last.  We have been chosen first. Every. Single. One. There is no competition for God’s love and His choice. There is no fear that we don’t play the game well enough.  He chooses you.

God’s Gift: Compassion

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Day 18 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Jonah 3:1-4:4, 11

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Jakob Steinhardt, Jonah Preaches in Nineveh, 1923, hand-colored woodcut

Jonah’s repentance while in the great fish is the part of the story that is well known.

But it’s what comes after that reveals the character of God and His next gift.

The Ninevites repent–up to the king on the throne down to the domestic animals.  They are not Israelites, and so Jonah bemoans God’s compassion towards them. They aren’t the “right” people.

But our God rebukes Jonah.  He claims the Ninevites and all the beasts.  His compassion is not for a select few, but for all His created.

Thoughts for today:

Have you ever passed judgement because someone wasn’t the “right” group?

What do you feel God is saying to you now about that action?

How can you be intentional about avoiding such behavior in the future?

God knows that we are weak.  We often focus too much on the outward, the perception, while He knows all.  May we work towards being more like Him and consider all possibilities in deciding our actions.

God’s Gift: Ruling

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Day 17 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Isaiah 11:1-9

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Image: public domain

Part of this scripture reading was Day One of our waiting.  Here we are reminded of the characteristics of the Holy Trinity: wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge.

But today’s reading goes further.  It explains the gift of God’s ruling.  It will bring such peace that creatures who were once enemies will eat together and lie down together.  The knowledge of the Lord will bring safety.

Only the fear of the Lord will remain. . .that awe inspiring, righteous trembling of His great power and rule.  We will not have a fear of each other.

God’s rule will bring His creation together.  What a beautiful thing on which to wait.

Thoughts for today:

What fears are keeping you awake at night as you wait?

How do you think it will feel to give all that fear to the Lord and rely simply on His ability?

Too often, God, we let our fears control what we do during this time of waiting.  We wrap ourselves in the memory of the past rather than look toward Your ruling of our future.  Help us to lay down our fears and to move toward Your light as we continue to wait.

God’s Gift: Power

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Day 16 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: I Kings 18:17-39

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Image: public domain

Oh, what a beautiful example of the power of God! And, a lesson to us all to not waver (or dance, as the text says) between our choices.

Elijah’s simple prayer to the Almighty is in such contrast to the antics of the prophets of Baal. His prayer is not for himself, but so that the people in attendance will know the one true God.

And the one true God answers!

He pulls their attention and their hearts back to Him in a way no other could EVER do. 

Thoughts for today:

Are you wavering in indecision while you wait?

What would happen if you simply asked God to use your situation to show the people around you His power?

God’s power is not something we can understand.  Our minds can’t grasp everything He is capable of doing because we are so weak. . .much like the beloved children’s song says. We are little.  Call on God’s power to show you and those around you what the direction of your hearts should be.

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