A Son, A Servant, A Steward

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The Ache of Advent

The Ache of Advent

MY WIFE, BONNIE, was asked to order calendars for 2021 for the managers at the Hartford Public Library.  When the calendars arrived, the managers informed her that the company inadvertently sent them calendars for 2020. Can you imagine reliving this year all over again?

And yet, to some degree, if Jesus does not return this year, we will relive a year filled with the aches that come with a fallen creation. Romans 8 is quick to point out that “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now…[and we too] groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Caroline Cobb describes this past year rather well when she writes, “For many, 2020 has felt like one long groan. Between the pandemic, a struggling economy, the isolation of quarantine and online school, civil unrest, racial injustice, wildfires, hurricanes, a noisy election, and divisive public discourse, this year has reminded us again and again of our mortality, lack of control, and collective brokenness. As 2020 comes to a close, we long—perhaps like never before—for hope, love, joy, and peace.” Read the full article here.

I like how Cobb takes the aches of this past year and uses them to focus our attention on the hope we have in Jesus. Each week of Advent, I want to highlight one of the “aches of 2020” and demonstrate how they can whet our appetite for Jesus and his kingdom.

This global pandemic is obviously at the top of the list of “aches and pains” that come with 2020.  If we were doing a final ten countdown, like we often do at the end of the year, this would be the final “ache of 2020” we would mention. It tops the list! 

Every day we add to the number of those infected by COVID and those who have tragically died as a result of the virus. At the time of writing this blog, 59.2 million people around the world have been infected by COVID and 1.4 million have died. By far, our country has the most cases and most deaths compared to the rest of the world.

If anything, this virus that we can’t see with our eyes, has demonstrated to us our weakness and our mortality. It is what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15:55 as “the sting of death.”  This is the very thing that ought to cause us to turn to Jesus with expectant hope.

During the earthly ministry of Jesus, we witness his power over sickness and death. When John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus to ask whether he was the Messiah or not, Jesus said in response to them, “Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” 

Furthermore, it is through the resurrection of Jesus that we see death has indeed been defeated.  Not even a pandemic can have the final say on a person’s life.

And so, in the weakness of sickness and death – in the ache of a world-wide pandemic - our hearts are directed towards the day when “death is swallowed up in victory.”  Greater than any vaccine man can manufacture, is the hope that comes to us in the resurrected Jesus who promises us a day when “God himself wipes away every tear, and pain will be no more.”

Let the “ache of 2020” with this lingering pandemic cause us to “wait on the Lord” with an expectant hope that is ours in Jesus Christ our resurrected King!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing

Speaking Heaven’s Language

Speaking Heaven’s Language

AS WITH EVERYTHING else in 2020, this will be a difficult Thanksgiving for many. The impact of COVID is being felt with fewer members of our families sitting around our tables. I know for our family, this saddens us.

And yet, it is amazing how often Scripture points to the attitude of thanksgiving as something that marks the life of one who loves Jesus. You could say that “thanksgiving” is the language of heaven.

To help you “speak the language of heaven” this Thanksgiving, I would like to offer you Psalm 138. Perhaps, between now and tomorrow, you could spend time using this psalm as a template to give voice to your words of thanks.

The Psalmist begins by saying that he gives thanks to God with his whole heart. There is nothing half-hearted about his offering of thanks.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name

What is the cause for thanks?

  1. For your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
         How have you seen God’s love in your life?
         How has God been faithful to you?
  1. For you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
         How has God’s sovereignty over all things been a source of comfort for you?
         How have you seen the wisdom of God on display in your life

  2. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
         How did God meet you in your time of need?
         Where has God answered prayer for you?
  1. All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth,  and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. 
         How has God’s Word ministered to your heart?
         What song do you like to offer as a tribute of thanks to God?

  2. For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
         How has God been your comfort?
         Where have you seen God at work in your life?

  3. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
         Where have you experienced the deliverance of God?
         Where are you persevering by God’s strength?

  4. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
         What is God teaching you?
         How is God using you to touch others through the circumstances of your life?

I would encourage you to take some quiet time and think through these questions as a means of forming a heart of gratitude. Then, take one of these thoughts and speak the language of heaven. Give thanks to God and be an encouragement to others.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Simple but Profound

Simple but Profound

That is how I felt when I read 2 Timothy 2:8. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.”

Does it strike you as odd that Paul would have to remind Timothy to remember that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead? 

Is that not at the very heart of our confession? Doesn’t our very faith hang on this very thought? Paul, rather dogmatically says in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Our faith doesn’t get much simpler than that. 

How could we even forget such a thing? I would like to suggest several ways we tend to forget this “simple profound truth.”

Doubt: It is natural to doubt your faith. We all wrestle with doubts. But it is the resurrection that anchors me in my faith in the context of my doubts. The spread of Christianity was hitched to the message that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. It is true! “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Discouragement: At times we get discouraged with how life is going. We wonder where God is in all of it and whether what we do in the mundane reality of life really makes a difference. Hence, we get discouraged. But at the end of the great chapter on the resurrection, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Defeat: We continue to wrestle with temptation and sin in our lives. At times, this makes us feel defeated. But it is the resurrection that reminds us that the grip of sin has been defeated in our lives and we now have the power to defeat it. We are dead to sin! We are alive to Christ! “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (Rom. 6:9-12)

Death: At times, we are overcome with a fear of dying. It is easy to talk about not being afraid to die, but it is something else to stare death in the face. It is at a point like this where we may be prone to question, “Is it really true?” Is what we have been saying about Jesus true? It is at this point we are called to simply “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” This prayer from Paul in Ephesians 1 helps us defeat the fear of death. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

So, in your doubts…your discouragements…your defeats…and even in death… “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead!” It may be simple, but it is incredibly profound.

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