FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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First Sunday of Advent

According to Bible Gateway, there are 5467 divine promises in the Scriptures. Other sources say there are fewer, and one says there are more than 7000. Regardless the number, be assured, we are a people of promise.

For centuries, God promised and prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only true hope for eternal life. Christmas is the time that we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that He would send a Savior.

Today marks the beginning of Advent – the season leading up to Christmas. Advent begins four Sundays before December 25. This year Advent spans November 27 through December 24. This is a wonderful time to look back, look inward and look ahead.

What are we looking back to? 1 Peter 1:10-12 helps us understand:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

We look back to remember the thousands of years that God’s people, our ancestors, were anticipating the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, God’s Salvation. Though many foretold the coming, none knew the day nor the hour nor the person nor the true magnitude of the grace to come.

Why are we looking inward?

In addition to being the start of the new church year, Advent is a reminder to prepare our hearts and minds for Jesus’ coming -not His first, but His return. We look inward introspectively, deep into our own hearts and minds, to prepare ourselves to stand before Him. We search for that which separates us from Him and seek His forgiveness and His help that our hearts and minds might be filled with Him and our hands might be about His business.

To what do we look ahead?

We look to His coming again! In the New Testament anticipation of Christ’s return is a constant theme. As followers of Christ we, too, should look forward to His return. We should long for His return – our blessed hope (Titus 2:13), long to see our Savior from heaven – the place of our citizenship (Philippians 3:20) and long to receive our crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award… to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

I once read that “real” Christians “really” look for His return because He is real, and He really is returning.  Are you looking?

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Meow

If you have followed my blog for any time or read any of the archived entries, you know that I have had a past love/hate (ok, mostly hate) relationship with the squirrels. Well, I made my peace with the squirrels and, as you might have read, extended them grace. Great grace, I would say, since I purchased and had erected a squirrel feeder. Yes, a feeder just for them. One of my friends commented, “You are actually, intentionally feeding the squirrels?!” And I said, “Yes!” They have a feeder and I fill it with corn, seeds and nuts!

Oh, but now it is the cats!

Specifically, it is my neighbor’s cats.

All nine of them.

Yes, nine!

They are ever in my yard and ever after my birds! (For those who don’t know, I also intentionally feed the birds.)

I enjoy watching the birds and hearing them sing. They remind me of the Scriptures and remind me to be calm, to slow down, to enjoy life, to trust my Lord (Matthew 6:25-34).

But those cats! I know that they have only recently killed at least six birds. I saw them torture, tease and torment one. By the time I’d rushed from my kitchen to chase them away, it was too late. I have found piles of feathers and down beneath the feeders, behind the barn and under my car.

I see the birds pecking and searching the grasses beneath the feeders, and I think, “What are you, dumb? Why do you insist on eating on the ground when the feeders are perched high – safe – on posts or hanging from the limbs of the trees? How dumb can you be?”

At the very least, they are slow learners. You would think that they would know by now that the cats are coming; that the cats are not their friends; that the cats are the enemy, prowling, looking to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

And with that thought, it hit me! Sometimes (hmm, too many times), I’m not very smart either; I’m a slow learner. Like the birds I have flirted with the enemy, knowingly placed myself in his path, blindly turned my attention to other matters thinking them more important while ignoring his threats. I’ve assumed myself smarter, faster even, than the enemy.

We need to understand that Satan is real. Satan is powerful. The battle is real. The battle is continuous. There is never a time when he is not on the prowl, watching, waiting, ready to pounce. Though Satan was created as the chief of all angels, God limited his boundaries and his powers (Job 1:9-12). Still, he is wise, cunning, deceiving and always at work – like those cats, stalking, watching for whom He may devour (2 Corinthians 11:4, 1 Peter 5:8). Might this be why Jesus said we must pray daily for deliverance from the evil one (Matthew 6:13)? Hmmm.

Satan is the enemy who disrupts our lives. But guess what; He doesn’t have a chance against Jesus.

POSSIBLE RESOURCES

  1.  How to Have a Meaningful Quiet Time                                                 http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/how-to-have-a-meaningful-quiet-time-1338122.html
  2. How to Have a Quiet Time                                               http://www.lifeway.com/Article/how-to-have-a-quiet-time
  3. How to Have a Quiet Time – According to Martin Luther                             http://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/advice/faithqa/whats-quiet-time.html

 

ps Those cats don’t have a chance against me!


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Time to Fret…NOT!

According to the National Cancer Institute, “in 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease. The number of new cancer cases will rise to 22 million within the next two decades.” Cancer is no respecter of persons.  “In 2014, an estimated 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 died of the disease.”

The New York Times reports that “for three quarters in a row, the growth rate of the economy has hovered around a mere 1 percent. In the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, the economy expanded at feeble annual rates of 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. The initial reading for the second quarter of this year, released on Friday, was a disappointing 1.2 percent.”  Profit Confidential writes that there are “more than enough indicators to suggest the US economy will come under serious pressure in 2016.” Wages are falling, US companies increasingly rely on foreign sales, the global economy is anemic and roughly one third of American adults have no emergency savings; about half of Americans could only cover their living expenses for about 90 days which means that if they are not already at their breaking point, they’re only about three months away.

Headlines tell us that the distance “overseas” is not as far as it used to be.  Our eyes are on Russia, China and North Korea.  You cannot flip one page of the papers without noticing alarming terrorist activity in Iraq and Syria and signs of expansion that indicate that terrorism may present on US soil in ways beyond even the horrors that we have already experienced.

Economy in Crisis reminds us that we “import tons of food from third world countries that have much lower standards than we do when it comes to food safety.”  According to their reports, we get seafood from polluted Vietnamese waters and unsafe meats from China.  Add to that the currently unknown (or at least unshared) risks of genetically modified foods and the underfunded, overworked FDA that has resources to inspect only 1-2 percent of food imports.  We cannot be sure of what we are eating much less of the safety of what we are eating.

And then, there is the recent US presidential election.  I am actually less concerned about the final outcome and more worried about what the process from campaign to election says about our country – the polarization, the changing values, the mudslinging, the morality (or lack of) of our leaders and would-be leaders, the violence, the fact that “we” have not overcome but rather are just as divided across race and ethnicity lines as ever.

Time to fret.

Not!

We are commanded in Psalm 37 to fret not.  Specifically, we are told not to fret the evildoers (verse 1) and not to fret the wicked who prosper (verse 7). If we boil it down to the core truth, those are the two things that cause us to fret the most – the evildoers and the appearance that the evildoers are growing, prospering, winning.

Look to 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) and be reminded, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Fret? No. Believe? Yes!

Appearances can be deceiving and, if our eyes are upon the world rather than upon the Creator of this world, we will fret. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3, ESV); “his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps” (Job 34:21), and our eyes are to be on Him. Hebrews 12:2a instructs us to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Fret? No!

Believe? Yes!

Trust? Yes!

Rest? Yes!