Ready or Not….

Matthew 24:36-44 is a vivid reminder that Advent is about Christ’s return. Whether I’m ready or not, He’s coming back. That isn’t about gloom and doom but rather about joy beyond anything I can imagine. The season of Advent leads to a celebration of Christmas. I used to wonder why Advent didn’t come after Christmas in the Christian calendar, but I see now that it’s important to think about my own readiness when it comes to Christ’s return. Listen to what the scriptures say.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.  But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” NASB

Folks have taken this scripture and twisted it into what they wanted it to be. The part about the Son not knowing was actually taken out at one point, and many have come up with a timeline and even an exact date when Christ will come. The not knowing is a vital part of this passage. If I knew, then I could do what I normally do and get ready right before He arrives. Live the way I want, do what I want, not mess with my mess until an hour or so before His gets here.

There is a commercial that comes to mind when I read this passage. A woman receives a formal invitation telling her that her heart attack will be arriving in two days. I’m not sure what I would do to get ready for a heart attack if I knew it was coming, but I think I would be more serious about my eating and exercise habits. Christ’s coming is a wonderful occasion, but would I change the way I live and love if I knew He was going to show up in two days? Of course I would!

When Christ enters my life, my world does end; and that’s a good thing. I no longer am alone. I’m loved in a way I cannot imagine. I have the beautiful assurance that no one can take me from God’s loving presence. When Christ comes back, many will not be prepared. It is sobering to think that not everyone will share in the love meant for each and every one of us. That humbles me in a way that makes me want to share His love more than ever before.

Christmas reminds me that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to dwell among and be one of us. It is love that defies description, and that is exactly why some refuse to believe and accept it. I pray that as I focus upon Christ’s return, I will be like a child at Christmas time waiting and watching and ready to be swept away by His amazing grace, peace, joy, and love. I also pray that I will invite others to have the same expectant joy and wait with me.

Our children and grandchildren watch and wait for Santa during this season of the year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they trusted us to give them what was good for them? Both my little granddaughters ask me to get them a toy Bolt, and both asked me to get one for her sister. I was touched that they thought of one another and immediately found two of the sweet super dogs and let them have them as soon as they arrived in the mail. I know that God also loves it when I ask for something for someone else. Tyler learned early on that he got much better presents when he let us decide. I wish I would truly trust God to give me what He knows is best for me.

I’m afraid I am like a spoiled child far too often when it comes to waiting and watching for God. Childlike wonder falls by the wayside and selfish wants invade my wait. I love this picture of little ones watching and waiting together for Santa. Unlike a child waiting for Santa Claus to come down a chimney, I don’t know when Christ is coming. I do, however, know that He loves me more than I can imagine. That fills me with expectant joy and makes me want to get ready to greet Him. My heart can be like these little ones if I live my life filled with eager anticipation, knowing that Christ is coming back and that it could be today!!

Ready and Waiting :)

Ready and Waiting 🙂

Something to Think About

Photo credit All Good Thinking

Photo credit All Good Thinking

Philippians 4:7-8 are perfect verses for Advent because they set my mind and heart in the right direction and promise peace when I dwell where God wants me to dwell. My mind wanders toward worry far too much of the time, but these verses center my heart and mind and fill me with peace.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” NASB

Here are the words from verse eight found in various translations. I find that when I dwell on things which are

True

Honorable

Right

Pure

Excellent

Praiseworthy

Lovely

Fine

Good

Reputable

Authentic

Compelling

Gracious

Best

Beautiful

Admirable

Just 

I find myself filled with the peace promised in verse seven.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NASB

Photo credit  About Midnight

Photo credit
About Midnight

Advent is a beautiful season meant to focus my heart and mind upon Christ’s return. I can think of no better way to prepare for that wonderful day than keeping my heart and mind fixed upon those things in verse eight so I can dwell in the peace promised in verse seven.

Sing Into God’s Presence

Psalm 100 has always been a favorite of mine, so I was glad to see it in the lectionary this week. I memorized the KJV version as a child, but I love The Message translation of verse two – “sing yourselves into his presence.” Singing does bring my heart near to God, and I am never nearer to Him than when I’m singing.  Listen to the sweetest hymn of invitation I know. It reminds me of who I am and Who God is and makes me want to stand up and sing out loud.

On your feet now—applaud God!
    Bring a gift of laughter,
    sing yourselves into his presence.

Know this: God is God, and God, God.
    He made us; we didn’t make him.
    We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.

 Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
    Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
    Thank him. Worship him.

For God is sheer beauty,
    all-generous in love,
    loyal always and ever.

I used to consider my singing a joyful noise because I was self conscious about my voice. During Holy Week of 2009, I sang in front of a small group of people with the help of a dear friend who encouraged me to go beyond thinking of noise and put my focus on God. When I did that and followed his lessons in breathing, I began to sing differently. I sing with abandon now, and I don’t worry about anything other than making sure my voice comes from a grateful heart and is directed at a loving God who enjoys nothing more than hearing His beloved children sing in a harmony only love can produce.

Take time to sing today and every day. I love listening to and singing with children because they sing with abandon and don’t care if I miss a note or forget a word. The harmony God loves isn’t about perfecting my performance; He’s just listening for love and joy among His children. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to start singing because it is a time when our hearts are filled with gratitude. Let it bubble up to the surface and sing “Thank you!” in your best two-year-old voice.  Some may consider it noise, but that’s only because their own hearts are not ready to sing. Just smile and keep on singing, and maybe they’ll sing along with you.

Children Singing

 

A Feeling More Filling Than Food

There are four lectionary readings for Thanksgiving Day. Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 100, Philippians 4:4-9, and John 6:25-35. Together, the scriptures form a beautiful image of gratitude and joy. As we gather around the table with our families today, I pray that we will take thankful to the next level and remember the Bread of Life and Living Water God sent to a starving and thirsty world. It is far more filling than the best food in this world. The people wanted, and still want, food. Sustenance is essential, but Christ offers something much better.

John 6:35-38 The Message – Eugene Peterson

When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?” Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.” They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.” They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!” Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

Christ bids those who search for food to seek something better. He knew the importance of being fed and the frustration of being hungry, but He also knew that the Bread of Life and the Living Water He offers give new meaning to hunger and thirst. They take thankful to a level beyond anything I can comprehend on my own. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I can take the Bread of Life and Living Water and share it with others. The more I share, the more I have. True thanksgiving makes me want to make a difference in the lives of others and helps me love in a way that changes everything. I love the wonderful food during the holiday, but I love the fellowship even more. Sharing Christ’s precious love with those in my path is the best of all. It is a feeling much more filling than food.

Bread of Life

Living Water (Nae's Nest)

What to Wear

Romans 13:11-14 paints a vivid picture of what to wear on the journey. Dressing and packing appropriately is an important part of the journey, especially if you plan to go in a new direction. What to wear, what to take, and what to leave behind forces me to make difficult decisions. The lectionary this week begins in Romans 13:11 and tells very clearly what not to pack. I believe it’s important to step back a few verses to get a clearer vision of what I need to put on and pack before heading up the path God has in mind.

Romans 13:8-14 The Message

“Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.

But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!”

Since I moved in with my son and his family, waking up has become a blessing. The little girls always wake with squeals of delight. That was particularly true this morning because we had a dusting of snow. Hearing them wake up and play upstairs reminds me that I am not alone on this journey. I believe that’s the point of this passage of scripture. Love is what I need to wear. Love is what I need to pack. Love is what I need to pass along to all those in my path.

I’ve spent far too much of my live exhausted in taking care of the day-to-day and have been absorbed by worry and fret. Lust is the opposite of love and involves so much more than sex. It is what causes me to doze off and become oblivious to God. It keeps me from loving as He desires. Lust lures me into lingering and loitering, and it convinces me to wait a little longer and indulge in what I want. We are in a season of lust, and I know that breaks God’s heart.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas become a blur of frivolity, indulgence, bickering, and grabbing everything in sight. Many people fall into deep depression during the fall while others choose to be blissfully oblivious.

Waking up and getting dressed is a process that involves making decisions about where I’m going, why I’m going, and who’s going with me. The answer to all three questions is God. He is the Who, what, where, why and how on the journey. The only question left for me is when because He will not push me out the door or drag me along. I have to decide when I’m ready to get up, get dressed, and be up and about on His way. When I decide I’m ready to go, He’ll help me with the dressing and the packing. So, put on Christ; pack some love, and let’s get going!

photo credit talknerdy2me

photo credit talknerdy2me

Peace is My Best

Psalm 122 is a psalm of pilgrimage and ascent that promotes worship, getting along, and living in peace with one another. Pilgrims would sing this song as they made their way to Jerusalem. I get a sense of returning home when I read it, so it’s perfect as we come together and give thanks this week. God’s vision is of His children living and loving one another in peace. It is the vision we all have for our families. Hear David’s Psalm.

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, that is built
As a city that is compact together;
To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord—
An ordinance for Israel—
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.

For there thrones were set for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.

 “May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

I can imagine pilgrims singing this song together in anticipation of worshiping together. The journey is about traveling together and seeking to give God our best just as He gives His best.  Psalm 122 directs my focus upon God’s vision of peace. Living and loving together in peace may seem like pie in the sky with all the craziness surrounding the holidays. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, and Advent is a time when we anticipate His return. It is about traveling together and singing songs of peace as we get a little closer to heaven.

Our earthly homes are a mess, but our heavenly home is coming. The journey is sometimes filled with fighting and fussing, but it is also a time of singing and praising God who seeks our good and desires His peace for all of us. For God’s sake, let’s look to the wisdom of this simple song of ascents and travel together with love in our hearts remembering that peace is our destination. The journey to Jerusalem was about finding the peace and wholeness. Peace, love, and wholeness is where the journey will lead me if I keep my focus upon God’s vision and give my best back to Him. Christ is the Prince of Peace and sets the course for our journeys. His life made peace possible in a troubled and lost world. David’s psalm is a beautiful reminder that we are pilgrims heading in the same direction. Singing together is a great way to keep our focus upon where we’re heading and makes the journey a joy instead of a job.

The Prince of Peace and the Lamb of God

The Prince of Peace and the Lamb of God

 

“The Way We’re Made”

As I was reading Isaiah 2:1-5 this morning, I was struck by the way The Message translated verse three. “He’ll show us the way He works so we can live the way we’re made.”  The scriptures begin the readings in year A of the Revised Common Lectionary. I’ve decided to use the lectionary in a new way this year. God has been bidding me to take a new direction, and Isaiah’s glimpse of God’s path of peace is the perfect place to start. I suppose God knew it would take time for me to make up my mind, so He started working on my heart a few weeks ago.

Advent is the perfect time for new beginnings. Four years ago, I began using the lectionary as a guide for my study of God’s Word. I was working in a church office and teaching a high school class on Sunday mornings, so I followed Pastor John’s messages and found myself doing research on the passages outlined in the Revised Common Lectionary. I love the way the passages complement one another, and I love the mix of old and new testament scriptures. I began in year C and came full circle this month as I finished off year C for the second time.

As I begin the three-year cycle for the second time, I plan to look at each scripture and let God show me the way He works so I can live the way I’m made. That statement continues to strike a chord in my heart because the journey is all about finding God’s way and being who He made me to be. God knew there was no better place for me to begin than in Isaiah. He knows how much I love the prophet’s poetry. No one helps me see God’s vision better than Isaiah.

Isaiah 2:1-5.

“The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.

Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

Advent begins a new year in the church calendar, and I begin a new year in my journey. I know God has amazing plans and pray I will keep to His path, walk in the light, and be who He made me to be. His Son’s precious love sheds light along the way, and His Holy Spirit is a wonderful guide and traveling companion. I look forward to all God has in store as I look at His Word in a new Light.

Christ's love lights the path.

Christ’s love lights the path.