Advent-Waiting

I am terrible at waiting. I came across this devotional and it helped me. I hope it speaks to you as well.

Scripture Reading

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14). “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” —Hebrews 11:6

Devotion: Waiting and Faith Go Hand-In-Hand

What’s the longest you’ve had to wait for something?

I imagine almost everyone has a memory of Christmas Eve as a child; squeezing your eyes shut, trying with all your might to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. For those of you with orthodox parents, you knew that even opening one present before Christmas morning was akin to high heresy.

And so you counted sheep and waited.

Waiting is still difficult. We expect everything to be at our fingertips the moment we have the desire for it. It’s a world we’re growing into and it’s addicting. We live in a world of easy downloads, instantaneous email, on demand and food prepared in a few minutes. Yet God finds ways of making us wait. Waiting and faith go hand-in-hand.
•We wait for the baby we’ve dreamed we’d hold in our arms.
•Some are waiting for their prodigal son to come to the end of himself and return home.
•Many of us are waiting for the phone to ring so we can return to a job with a normal salary and benefits.
•Others are waiting for an eye-opening spiritual breakthrough.

Waiting is the embodiment of faith.

In Hebrews 11:13 we are reminded that faith involves trust in God’s promise even if the promises of God are fulfilled long after we’re gone. The writer says, “These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance …” (Emphasis added.)

Application: Remain Faithful in Your Waiting

Advent is about faith and waiting. What are you waiting on God for this year? Remember the years of silence as God’s people waited for the Messiah. Take time today, right now, to reflect on the fact that God’s timing is quite different from ours.

The story of Jesus’ birth gives us assurance and joy because even though the waiting lingered for decades, God broke through at just the right time.

Are you struggling with a lack of faith? That’s OK. It doesn’t take much faith to get God’s attention. Jesus encouraged his frustrated followers this way: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

Most of us try to grow a forest in one day. Jesus, however, invites you to begin with a tiny seed. Watch it grow and wait for it to become all that you dreamed it would be.
•An entire nation waited centuries before their eternal king appeared.
•Mary wasn’t given a full-grown son.
•The Wise Men from the east didn’t see the Messiah to appear at their front door.

Are you willing to plant faith and wait upon God? Nothing seems to be appearing on the horizon today, but just wait! God always keeps his promises, even to those who have little faith. Just wait.

Today: How Waiting Affects You

Share: Share with a friend or family member something you are waiting for.

Encourage: Encourage someone you know who is weary of waiting. Remind them of God’s promises.

Evaluate: Take inventory of your relationship with God. Are you struggling with His silence?

Pray: Lord, I remember the years of waiting for a Messiah. I’m often impatient with my life. Please teach me to enjoy You and not just the blessings I see in Your hands. Fill my days with laughter and joy through hardship and uncertainty. Remind me that when I think I’m waiting for an eternity, it really isn’t. Life on this earth is infinitesimally smaller than a second in the light of true eternity.

Giving Thanks ALL the time

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we once again become mindful of the things we are thankful for. Many families who never pray together will bow a head around the full dinner table and give God thanks. People will smile and remind one another of the good things in their lives. Unfortunately, it may be another year before people really stop to give proper thanks to God. The other day a parent told me how my son ALWAYS says thank you when being picked up for a car pool or is over at their house for a “play date.” I quickly shared that her son always does the same to me. We laughed at how grateful they are to others but take us for granted. Still, I was happy to hear that my children seem to be thankful people.

Let this Thanksgiving day do more than give us a reason to gather, eat, watch football and give thanks. Let it be a springboard of thanksgiving that lasts throughout the year. Do not just give thanks in 2016 when you receive abundant blessings like a raise, or a healthy diagnosis from a medical test or for your child making the first chair of the orchestra. Instead, thank God continually for all the things in your life. Never forget to offer up Thanksgiving to the God who gives us all things.

Daily Devotion

Pastor Bross asked me to put out the Daily Devotional today. He said to check out the Upper Room for inspiration or write something about Jen Schaid. Pastor Jeffry is not available today to write a Daily Devotional because he is in Ohio to be with Jen’s family during her funeral and other events that surround the passing of a loved one. The Upper Room is a great Methodist devotional site, but it wasn’t speaking to me today. To say I hesitated to fulfill his latter request is an understatement. I don’t ever want to seem like my words could ever replace anyone else’s.

But then, I started thinking about Jen and about the meaning of this week-the things we need to be grateful for no matter how large or small. I first met Jen when the church was struggling to find someone to drive her downtown Chicago for doctors’ appointments. I’d like to say I was the first one to sign up, but I was not. I reluctantly said yes after a personal invitation because they couldn’t find anyone else for one particular appointment. It’s not that I didn’t want to; I just do not like driving on the interstate let alone toward a very large city known for traffic backups! Jen was a charming, engaging, beautiful young woman that I was able to drive on a couple more occasions and blessed to be able to call a friend because of this experience.

Please thank God every day for everything in your life-negative and positive. The negatives teach you something about yourself and God’s promise to hold you in every situation, and the positives make you see there is good in every day. Look for the smallest- the green light when you needed it but also the red light when you needed to slow down. And to the largest-to the joy of weddings but also the sadness of funerals. My friend was buried today but I am more grateful than ever to be able to call her my friend.
-Sara Williams

1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Reconciliation

At church yesterday a few people commented to me about their Thanksgiving plans and how they were not really looking forward to it because they had to deal with family issues. One person did not particularly like the in-laws and another was sad because of a fall-out between siblings.

While Thanksgiving is a time that we give thanks and gather with family, it is also a time to consider reconciliation. Before you attend that Thursday dinner think about your family. If you have had an issue or concern with one of your family members, lift them up to God in prayer and consider a time of reconciliation with them. If you are excited to see family and everything is well, pray anyway. Lift them up and privately give thanks to God today for them. Let the love of Christ flow from you this season.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Why It Matters

Yesterday was a tragic day in the life of Flowing Grace. Jen Schaid, a member for a number of years and mother of Luke, a vibrant and loving boy, tragically passed away. We mourn her loss and we grieve for her family, including Luke and her parents Bill and Julie. When I was on the phone with Bill, he reminded me that the faith community at Flowing Grace had been with them through all of her health issues and trials and he was assured that we would continue to be. In my own personal grief, I was lifted up by his words. I knew that we would be there for them, the community will be there when and if I face tragedy or trials and I know it will be there for anyone else who is in need of love, peace, hope and joy. Jesus Christ spoke through a father who was facing the death of his daughter. Jesus Christ is lifting up and holding him and his entire family. I am assured of this today! I thank God for the understanding of his great love and though we mourn as human beings over the loss of someone so young and dear, we rejoice in the promise of her life eternal.

I Cor. 15: 50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

Worldly = Spiritual

From St. Mary Alexandria:

“So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? –Luke 16:11

Jesus clearly teaches that how we handle our worldly wealth directly relates to the quality of our spiritual life. The responsible use of our material wealth gauges our fitness to receive “true riches”. This is true both for us as individuals and for us as a church. We are called to be trustworthy in worldly things while seeking the true riches of things of the Spirit. While being faithful in the natural, we must live in the constant reality of the supernatural.

Have you been praying for revival? Are you yearning for a deeper fellowship with Christ? Have you been longing for the manifestation of all the gifts of the Spirit in our fellowship? Do you wish for more evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our midst—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control? Will the Lord entrust these “true riches” to us at our present level of faithfulness?

Dear friends, I pray we will walk together in the fullness of the kingdom, faithful in worldly things while experiencing the unspeakable joy of true riches of the Spirit!

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” –Matthew 6:33

Leftovers

This is another exciting time at Flowing Grace. We are gearing up for new ministries, continuing our generosity and loving those we know and those we do not know. As we seek to grow and teach disciples, we realize that we get to be a part of something very special. We get to be one of the factors that dramatically affects the lives of others. We get to give so that others may grow in faith, discover a walk with Christ and strengthen the foundation of faith. We get to find ways to feed the hungry and bring hope to the hopeless. My sacrificial gift each week is used by God to do great things. Because of that, I give out of complete and utter joy!

Are you a cheerful giver? Do you know what it means to give freely?

“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” —Proverbs 3:9

Have you asked God lately how much He wants you to give?

Periodically it is good for us to re-examine our giving; to ask ourselves if we are giving out of habit or if we are seeking and following God’s direction in the area of our life that deals with giving back.

Leftovers. They are a wonderful timesaver in the kitchen and sometimes even seem to taste better than the original meal. But when we honor someone with a meal, we would never think of using leftovers.

The same is true when it comes to the way we worship and honor our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we truly want to honor Him, it will not be with our “leftovers”. Everything we have, everything we are, and everything we hope for are rooted in God’s creation of us and His graciousness toward us through Christ. Our time, money, and abilities are actually His. We should not give Him our time, money or abilities “if there is some leftover”. We only honor God when we give to Him first, trusting that He will provide for the rest of our time, money, and energy needs.

Proverbs 3:9 urges us to honor God by practicing firstfruit giving with our money. We basically have five general alternatives when it comes to what we do with our income: (1) the support of a chosen lifestyle; (2) whatever is needed for the repayment of debt because of that lifestyle; (3) the payment of taxes; (4) what we save and invest for the future; and (5) what we give away. What order of priority do these five alternatives take in your life? Does Proverbs 3:9 make a difference in helping you determine those priorities?

I urge you to prayerfully consider how you might be a JOYFUL giver.

A Response to Terror

In my devotions, I’m grappling with the issue of terrorism and where God is in the midst of it.

The Psalms tell us over and over that God is our protector and will protect us from our enemies, yet we see non-Christians and Christians alike dying in war and violence. Why is this happening if God loves us and offers to protect us? Further digging into Scripture reveals that sin is the the result of our own doing. God is not an evil doer and does not do evil things. We do based on our greed, anger and hatred. We blow up buildings, judge other people, shoot our neighbors and hoard our things.

If we accept that evil is the result of humanity’s desire to sin, then what is being asked is, “Why doesn’t God interfere when people mess up their lives?” The truth is that God has. God showed us the way to peace when he heald the soldier’s ear that Simon Peter cut off to protect Jesus. He showed us a way to protection when he cried out on cross: “Father forgive them.” He gave us the way to the Kingdom when He said

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5

Perhaps a story told by Dr. A. A. Hodges will help clarify the issue a bit: One day, a man rushed into the presence of Dr. Witherspoon, an eighteenth century clergyman. “Dr. Witherspoon,” he shouted, “help me to thank God for His wonderful providence! My horse ran away, my buggy was dashed to pieces on the rocks, and behold! I am unharmed.” The good doctor smiled benevolently at the inconsistent, imperfect character of the man’s religion. “Why,” he answered, “I know a Providence a thousand times better than that. I have driven down that rocky road to Princeton hundreds of times, and my horse never ran away and my buggy was never dashed to pieces.” Here is a truth few Christians grasp. An accident occurs and we have a seemingly miraculous deliverance. Immediately, we see God’s hand in it and praise Him and tell others of His marvelous act of providence. It never occurs to us to thank Him for the times when we were spared even the accident.

It is commonly believed that nothing will go wrong for a child of God. That was what Job’s friends thought. That is why they spent so much effort trying to convince Job that he must have sinned and incurred God’s anger. But they were wrong (Job 42:7). Christians will be caught up in the world and its sin and will be hurt by it. However, we are assured that ultimately we will not be destroyed and ultimately we have new life and new hope. Maybe the protection God promises us is not protection from a bomb or a bullet but from being caught up in the sin and anger and violence ourselves. When we seek revenge or to “get someone” it is sin that is covering us and can be worse than anything that can be done to us. As Christians, let us hold onto power and control and not be brought to the darkside (remember, that is why the emperor in Star Wars wanted Luke to get angry, because it leads to sin…yes, I AM excited about the Star Wars movie coming out). Maybe, just maybe if we stay in the light and the hope and forgiveness and love, then ultimately sin and war and violence will end. I believe it will happen because I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe that THY KINGDOM shall indeed come and when it does, “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;” -Psalm 46

Carry My Brother

Yesterday I had one of those long and busy days.  It started early in the morning and did not end until late at night.  I was constantly on the go and new things seemed to keep popping up.  I lamented to God like a Psalmist asking WHY ME?  TAKE THIS BURDEN FROM ME!  I just wanted all that I had to be over and to be less busy.  Then I heard the story of a veteran who after seeing his fellow soldier injured severely, lifted him up and carried him for many miles to get help.  This was after being in combat for many straight days and getting litttle to no sleep.

While I hate and despise war and think it is evil’s way of separating humankind, I love those who serve their country.  I am a big fan men and women who so bravely have served and I give them thanks.  The soldier that was being talked about said that he had no choice but to carry the other soldier to safety.  Even through the exhaustion, the danger and the pain, he had to, as he said, “carry his brother.”

Do we carry our brothers and sisters?  Often in the church we get tired, dont want to help others, dont think they deserve it, dont have time.  But I know that at times my faith needs to be carried by my brothers and sisters at Flowing Grace.  I also know that at times I must do the same.  I have no choice.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

Take My Life

The hymn, TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE, was written in 1874 by Frances R. Havergal.  Even during her time, she was concerned about the pleasure-oriented and thus self-centered lifestyle of those around her.  The commitment to God of body, mind and possessions portrayed in this text is difficult for many if not most Christians to achieve.  For Frances, we are only stewards of the things God has given us.  The hymn was the result of a deep dsire to pursue a deeper consecration of herself to God.  The line, “take my silver and my gold” was not just a poetic piece for her.  At one time, Frances gathered her many fine pieces of jewelry and other family heirlooms and shipped them to the church missionary house to be used for evangelizing the lost.  Nearly 50 articles were sent with “extreme delight.”

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  I Cor. 10:31

1 Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

2 Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

3 Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

4 Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

5 Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

6 Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.