Well, unless it’s late November or one of the first 25 days of December. During that narrow window out of our year, we use that word quite a bit. You know, “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant…O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”
Just today I heard the song three times while readying for church, and I joined in – loud, joyous and off key. I’m sure I’ll hear the song a few more times as we end the season and bring 2016 to a close.
Wait for the next season of adoration?
Advent was not just about waiting and watching for Jesus; we know from Genesis that God promised a Savior (Genesis 3:14-15), and we know from all of Scripture that God is faithful. Specifically, from 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV) we know that “no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” With certainty then we knew the Savior would come. With certainty we know He will return. Advent, then, and all the days before and after are not about waiting. Rather, Advent and Christmas are about adoring our Savior.
At Christmas time and always, the faithful adore Him – joyfully and triumphantly!
Wise men! (And wise women!) The lesson of the wise men we read about in the Scriptures – the star-gazing, pagan, camel-riding astrologers – is that if they can approach the Christ and fall down in worship, so may all. So must all.
David Mathis (Desiring God.org) wrote that as we “know more, we adore Him all the more and come to Christmas with no less joy than” the magi. Mathis notes that “because He is marvelously merciful,…because His advent is Grace (Titus 2:11),…because He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10),…to heal the sick and call the sinners (Matthew 2:17), to serve the spiritually broken (Mark 10:45) and destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) we come joyful and triumphant.”
We have much to be thankful for and much to celebrate all year long!
“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant…O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Think your kids are too young to understand your grown-up conversations? Think again. They not only hear what you are saying, they will repeat it – often at the worse time possible (like in front of your mother-in-law or at school). And very often, they repeat your own words to you.
“Mom, you said…”
“Dad, you promised…”
While moms and dads sometimes have selective amnesia failing to remember what they said or promised, there is nothing God loves more than keeping His promises. He waits for us to take Him at His word – His word which contains literally thousands of promises waiting to be claimed in faith. Promises like Psalm 50:15 – “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” and like 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
God stands ready and waiting for you to ask Him about Isaiah 40:29 (“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.”) and Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”) And when we stand on His word, He stands by His word, faithful to keep every promise. You have to claim them. You have to know them. You have but to say, “Lord, you said…”
THIS WEEK search the Scriptures for God’s promises. Which do you need to claim? Pray them keeping in mind Psalm 84:11 (“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”) Praying is standing on the promises of God. If you take God at His word, you will experience the joy of knowing that He keeps His word.
Yesterday I watched 8 hours of television. I watched until the cable box automatically shut down to go into power save mode Even the cable company couldn’t believe someone would be actually watching television that long!
Yesterday I prayed 1 hour.
The Daily News says, “The average American watches more than five hours of live television every day. More if you’re African American. Quite a bit more. Less if you’re Hispanic or Asian American, but not that much less. For all ethnic groups, TV viewing time increases steadily as we get older, according to the March 2014 “Cross-Platform Report” released by the Nielsen media ratings company. Once we pass 65, we watch more than seven hours a day.”
The American Time Use Survey says that Americans spend on average 2 to 17 minutes each day on “religious activity.” In my home state, North Carolina, the average is 11 minutes per day.
I guess I could tell myself that I am “above average,” for a North Carolinian and for a Southerner. The Survey notes, “Southerners are more likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives than people from any other region, so it’s no surprise that they report spending more time per day on religious activities.”
But I cannot make peace with these numbers.
Why don’t we pray?
The most popular excuse is time. We don’t have time. Well, I watched 8 hours of television. Trust me, it was not life-altering, mind-enriching, world-changing television. And I’ll wager that what you watch is not either. Mine was more of the home decorating, new cooking techniques, travel to an exotic land variety with a sprinkling of good health and diet suggestions. The truth of the matter, we have time.
The second most popular excuse is that it’s really not necessary. Really? Think of the many examples in the Scriptures when victory came through prayer – and when defeat came because of a lack of prayer. Two contrasting examples – (1) Elijah praying that it would not rain (and it did not for 3 1/2 years) and then his prayer for rain (and the sky poured causing the earth to produce fruit) and (2) the defeat of the Israelite army when they fought against the city of Ai. Confident in themselves, they did not pray or consult the Lord before going into battle. They were bold. They were self-centered. They were defeated. (See 1 Kings 17-19 and Joshua 7.)
We know, too, that while He was on earth, Jesus was faithful in spending vital time in prayer with the Father. Just as He sought time alone to talk with His Father, shouldn’t we? Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him. The truth of the matter, we need to pray as Jesus prayed.
The third most popular excuse is that prayer does not make a difference. Sure, if we think prayer is magic, it doesn’t make a difference. Or if we think prayer is about presenting our shopping list or Christmas list to Santa God, it doesn’t make a difference. If we think prayer is about us and our sole benefit, it doesn’t make a difference. Finally, if we think prayer is about showing off – using fancy, 50-cent words and parading our theology before people, it doesn’t make a difference.
When we get that prayer is about a relationship with God, it makes a HUGE difference. Prayer is talking with, spending time with, loving and worshipping our Holy Father. Yes, we share our hearts and may make requests, but we also confess our faults, thank God for His love, praise Him for who He is, intercede for others and more. And prayer is knowing that God hears us, loves us and will answer us. The truth of the matter, prayer makes a difference. The difference is the relationship. The difference is the peace. The difference is the love.
Contrast this with television.
When I think about it, I don’t have time to watch that much television! There are too many people hurting and too many people lost; I need to intercede. There are too many shortcomings in my life; I need to confess. There are too many blessings in my life; I need to worship and adore my God.
When I think about it, television is not that necessary. Much of what I watch is pure entertainment. Now, I am all for laughing. I like learning new recipes and seeing new decorating ideas. I like escaping to other worlds. But none of that is essential to my survival, my success or my salvation.
When I think about it, television does not make a difference in my life. Yes, I learn a little because, more often than not, I choose programs that will teach, but can I compare those to time spent with my Lord? Think about your much-loved spouse, child or friend – would you rather spend time watching television or with them? Now, I have some colleagues that regularly toss their spouses aside for episodes of Scandal or Monday Night Football, but I am confident that when the end comes, they will not be wishing for more time with television, that they had not missed that touchdown or that one episode. They will be wishing they’d spent more time with the ones they loved and the ones that loved them. And no one loves you more than the Father.
Am I planning to give up television? That would be a, “No!” But I am rethinking what I watch and how much time I spend watching. I am also rethinking my prayer time. My focus won’t be how many minutes and hours I can spend praying so that I can hold them up before the Lord and say, “See, Lord, television 2 hours; prayer 3.” My focus will be about spending quality time engaged in necessary prayer talking to the One who loves me and who makes all the difference in my life!
When I learned to drive, road maps were all the rage. I have very vivid images of my dad sitting at the kitchen table with his maps spread out and a World Atlas at his fingertips. He would sit there for hours planning our family vacations, mapping the routes, making note of the connections, turns and exits. I thought he and my sister were amazing the way they could recall and discuss highway numbers… “Turn right onto 42 and go about 37 miles then take NC 97 North to 301. You’ll go about 12 miles then merge onto Interstate 95 North.”
I well remember my first solo trip with a road map. Like Daddy, I sat at the kitchen table, spread the map, made my markings and jotted notes. I was going on a job interview and, worried enough about that, I wanted the travel to be uneventful. I even used the little scale in the bottom corner of the map to calculate mileage and approximate time. All along the way, though, I had to keep stopping on the side of the road to consult my trusty road map.
Three things are important when planning a trip using a map – knowing where you are, where you need to end and which direction you need to travel to get there! And therein lies the beauty of GPS. The screen shot always includes a big arrow indicating YOU ARE HERE. That’s good news to any driver!
Want some even better news? Not only are you “HERE,” so is God! He is everywhere! He is with you!
Joshua 1:9 (ESV) reminds us to be strong, courageous and without fear or dismay because the Lord, our God, is with us wherever we go. Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV) echoes the same encouragement adding a reminder that He will never leave nor forsake us. David asked, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7-10, ESV) In the heavens, in Sheol, in the uttermost part of the sea – even there David said we find God’s hand which shall lead us and hold us!
I find that latter thought to be particularly encouraging because I live in the boondocks, and I frequently drive rural highways. This means I regularly lose signals for my telephone and GPS. The “GPS Lady” often tells me she is rerouting. I suppose rerouting sounds better than “I don’t have a clue where you are.” When the GPS loses its signal, I am left to go it alone trying to read road signs while I drive. That is not only frustrating, it is unnerving, especially if I am traveling an unfamiliar and not well-marked route. Whenever the signal reconnects, the GPS offers instructions to correct whatever mis-turns I may have taken and tries to get me back on track. It’s rare, but sometimes GPS cannot get it right and I have to rely on other sources like stopping strangers to ask for instructions or accessing Google Maps on my cell phone.
Our God never loses connection with us though we sometimes choose to ignore the promptings of His Holy Spirit. Now there are times when I know better than the “GPS Lady.” She tells me to turn left and I am looking at a ONE WAY sign or a ROAD CLOSED sign, so I know not to follow her directions. But our God gets it right 100% of the time! Isaiah 40:13-14 asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?” The answer is NO ONE! He is omniscient and omnipresent, so He knows and He is with us. He is also faithful, so we can trust that He is with us, just as He promised, wherever we are.
There are times when we ignore God’s directions or believe that we know better. Surely when God has us on a route that is bumpy or one that is twisted or winding or scary or lonesome or dark even, He has made a mistake, somehow gotten it wrong. No, it is not God that has gotten it wrong, it is our perspective that is limited while God is finite.
Question God? Be puzzled by His directions? Surely, but never doubt. Even Abraham had questions about God’s directions and decisions (e.g. the destruction of Sodom), but Abraham obeyed in faith. He never mocked, rebelled or cursed God. Abraham knew what we can know as children of God and that is that God is Here, right here with you!