The people of God were enduring one of the darkest hours of their existence as Judah was being conquered by the Babylonians. Jerusalem itself was under siege and would soon fall. All of this as a result of their rebellious spirit and unwillingness to honor God.
And yet, even as God brought devastation upon them, He planted seeds of hope. His plan to redeem mankind by bringing the Messiah into the world through the tribe of Judah would still come to pass.
The once strong nation of God had become a scattered people living in exile. It was during these dark moments that Jeremiah was inspired to write:
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. ~ Lamentations 3:25-26
What are you facing that only God is big enough to handle? Are you waiting on Him?
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.
Have you ever had to wait for something you really, really, really wanted?
Today is the first Sunday of the Advent season – the period of time leading up to Christmas. Many churches use these four weeks before Christmas to recognize the 400 years the Israelites waited from the last time God spoke through a prophet until the arrival of Jesus as a baby.
As the Israelites waited with expectations of the coming Messiah, we today wait with expectation for His second coming – when He will claim those who belong to Him as His bride and take them to be with Him forever.
But can we even begin to grasp what it must have felt like to wait 400 years for God!
Waiting is not one of my strong points. I struggle to wait for anything or anyone. Makes me wonder how the Israelites handled it. Did they get angry? Did they wonder if God had forgotten them? Did they begin to question the old faith stories that they had grown up with?
We know for sure that some of them decided to take matters into their own hands. They were called Zealots and they physically revolted against the ruling Roman empire on numerous occasions.
I don’t usually revolt or become violent but I can relate to taking matters into my own hands. But this
seldom… NEVER works the way I want it to. In the end we are always better off trusting God and waiting on Him.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. ~ Isaiah 40:31 (Message)
What is it that you’re waiting on God for today? Will you choose to trust Him?
Rio is the animated movie about a macaw named Blu that inadvertently ends up in Minnesota and gets raised as a pet. He is later sought out by a ornothologist from Rio De Janeiro because he is the last known male of his species.
When Blu and his owner arrive in Rio De Janeiro he meets the fiercely independent Jewel and takes off on an adventure that is a whirlwind of discovery.
One of the humorous themes throughout the movie is that Blu cannot fly. When challenged by other birds about this he spouts off statistics about the numbers of bird species that are flightless; but the other birds see it as a lame excuse for not being who he really is.
As you might guess, one of the triumphal moments in the movie, towards the very end, is when Blu discovers he really can fly. In the midst of his euphoria and delight he shouts out – “I’m not an ostrich!”
Take a moment to consider who you are or how you see yourself. Now wrestle with the reality that your Creator made you to be more! I’m not saying that as a put-down or to make you feel badly about yourself. I’m pointing this out simply because we need to realize who we are as children of God with the innate potential to become more and more like Jesus.
Anyone can sin. Anyone can hold a grudge. Anyone can gossip. Anyone can try to make life revolve around them. Anyone can hoard their resources rather than share with those in need. But that’s like Blu going through life without flying. It’s not natural for those of us who are intended by God to become more like Jesus; living and loving as He did.
16-18Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that
God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (The Message)
Like Blu we need to recognize and declare… “I’m not an ostrich!”
Only then will we learn how to love like Jesus!
A couple of weeks ago Susan let me know that all she really wanted for Mother’s Day was for us to work on some landscaping around the house. She loves working in the yard and her primary love language is time spent together.
So we shopped for flowers and bushes and a tree. We bought a few large pots and even a decorative stand for holding some hanging plants. We filled the van with bags and bags of mulch. And of course we got some potting soil.
Then we waited for a break in the weather to be able to grab the gardening tools and get busy. For the last week we’ve used parts of days here and there to get one particular area transformed. What you see in the picture was pretty much just dirt!
I wish I could say it was complete! But I can’t! There is more mulch to be spread and several dirt spots to seed. There are even some trees to be trimmed. But the progress is obvious. Anyone who has seen the yard before immediately recognizes the improvement.
I hope that’s true of me as well. Sometimes I get frustrated at what seems like a lack of progress in becoming more like Jesus. I still lose my temper. I still think judgemental thoughts. I still wrestle with sin in various shapes and sizes. But I hope the overall progress is obvious.
I’ll be honest. If it weren’t for Susan I would not do nearly as much work on transforming the yard. And thankfully, I’m not on my own when it comes to the process of transformation that God wants to accomplish in me.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)
“…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
The Holy Spirit delights in reshaping our lives so that we develop the character of Jesus and reflect the glory of God. Even though we sometimes get frustrated, He doesn’t grow weary. What matters is not how far along we are but whether or not we are staying engaged in the process.
Are we fixing our gaze, our attention on Jesus?
“The disciples weren’t sure what was happening next, why should you be?”
That’s what I asked those who joined us last week for our Maundy Thursday Service to celebrate and remember the Last Supper – the Passover meal that Jesus shared with His disciples just before being arrested. We used no bulletin; no list of what was coming next.
We read Scripture with the advantage of hindsight but forget that the disciples were living it out moment-by-moment. Details that are crystal clear to us were not so obvious to them. I think that’s why they were so shocked at Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
Sure they grew up hearing the prophecies of old about how the Messiah must suffer and die. Sure they spent three years doing life with Jesus and heard Him speak of His impending death – on more than one occasion. And yet they were caught off guard!
John does admit that there was more that Jesus did than what we have recorded (John 20:30). Maybe He did pull them aside and lay it all out for them with something like:
“Listen guys – I’m going to be arrested, run through a mock trial, tortured beyond recognition and then crucified. But don’t sweat it because three days later I will rise from the dead just like you saw happen with Lazarus. So go with the flow because it all turns out OK in the end.”
Is it possible? Sure! Is it likely? No! Why didn’t Jesus warn them? Why didn’t He make it easier to understand so that they wouldn’t get so distraught? In a word…
He was growing their faith! If they’d known everything that was going to happen, that everything was going to be alright, they wouldn’t have been stretched and grown in their trust of God. Not knowing where circumstances are headed and still trusting God to be in control requires faith.
Jesus was preparing to unleash them on the world to carry out His kingdom agenda. They were going to be used by God to spread the good news of His grace and truth; and that would require great faith.
So what circumstance of life is God using right now in your life to grow your faith?
Image via Wikipedia
I don’t know about you but I like those movies that start with a BANG! From the very first scene they have you on the edge of your seat with nail-biting excitement. A car chase; a fight scene; something exploding…
That’s what comes to mind when I read the first chapter of John’s Gospel. In the very first chapter he uses no less than 7 names or titles for Jesus!
- The Word – 1:1-3, 14
- The Light – 1:4-13
- The Son of God – 1:15-28, 49
- The Lamb of God – 1:29-34
- The Messiah – 1:35-42
- The King of Israel – 1:43-49
- The Son of Man – 1:50-51
John wrote his account later than the other three Gospels, probably sometime between 70 – 100 A.D. Why does John use such powerful imagery with all these names for Jesus? Because he’s on a singular mission.
But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. ~ John 20:31 (NIV)
The early followers of Jesus were undergoing some intense persecution and were perhaps wavering in their faith; so John writes to encourage them by reminding them that Jesus was indeed God’s chosen Messiah – the giver of life.
Take a few moments to reflect on how John speaks of Jesus.
- The Word – God’s creative power at work in the universe and in us.
- The Light – That which illuminates the way to God and real life.
- The Son of God – the one and only, equal with the Father and the Spirit.
- The Lamb of God – the One who sacrificed his very life to pay our sin debt.
- The Messiah – the anointed one, set aside for a special purpose.
- The King of Israel – the rightful ruler of life, our Lord.
- The Son of Man – fully God and fully man, able to identify with our struggles.
Which of these descriptions of Jesus and how He relates to us is most meaningful to you today? Identify it, thank God and enjoy Jesus!
The other day a friend sent me an email with a link to a YouTube video clip of a flash mob performance. If you’ve never seen one they are pretty amazing. The link for this one is posted below.
These types of surprise gatherings involve large groups of people who mingle into an open public space to carry out an unexpected performance. This one takes place in a common food court of a mall. One of the best parts of the video is how it catches the faces of onlookers full of surprise and awe.
I’ve seen some of these flash mob performances before but this one uses the Hallelujah Chorus done in dramatic fashion. It left me with a sense of the divine breaking through into the ordinary. Isn’t that the essence of celebrating Christmas? God breaking through into the ordinary?!
Reread the Christmas story in Luke 2. You’ll notice words like terrified… amazed… rejoicing… We see the same kind of thing recorded in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit breaks into the ordinary to birth the church …
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. ~ Acts 2:42-43
Since God is everywhere, always… isn’t every moment an opportunity for the divine to break through into the ordinary?