FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Third Sunday of Advent

Confession. I’m not good at waiting.

I’m working on it. Have been. For at least…well, let’s just say, a lot of years!

This is one (just one) reason I am always both amazed and encouraged when I read of the promises of a Messiah to the people of Israel.

First, the promise. Through his trickery and scheming, Satan had brought a curse upon Adam, Eve and their offspring. Adam and Eve’s sin separated them and their offspring from God. More than a millennium before the birth of Jesus, God, knowing man’s proclivity to sin, promised One would come, seed of the woman, and He would bring Satan’s destruction and man’s deliverance (Genesis 3).

Then, the anticipation. Surely it began with Adam and Eve when the Scriptures tell us that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived” (Genesis 4:1a). Was this the seed? Was this the Savior?  Through the years the Jews anticipated the promised Messiah – a savior who would restore the former glory of Kingdom of Israel. From the Mosaic Covenant (The Old Testament), we know that God kept His promises, thus the Jews rightly and wisely expected and anticipated the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy. Surely with each struggle, each war, each captivity, the Jews anticipated their coming Savior. Their rabbis, scribes and Jewish priests had taught them that the Messiah would not just come but would overcome their enemies. Surely many women wondered if their seed would be the Savior.

Finally, the wait. Daniel, the prophet of the Biblical book of Daniel, prophesied the year of the Messiah’s arrival saying that the Messiah would come 483 years after the orders would be given to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Keep in mind that by the time we get to Daniel’s day, hundreds of years have already passed since God’s promise to Adam and Eve.  Still, they waited.

They waited, yes!  But they waited in anticipation, expecting, attentive and in hope. They did not wait passively with crossed fingers; they did not just endure their hardships. They had set their sights on a promise from their faithful God. Theirs was a posture of waiting.

Ours, too, is to be a posture of waiting.

In one of his sermons, John Henry Newman wrote, “We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch; to watch for what?  For the great event – Christ’s coming!”

So what exactly is our posture of waiting? It is those actions Newman noted between the “watching.” We are to believe, to love, to obey.

Advent is a yearly reminder, a yearly opportunity and a yearly invitation to check our posture.


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Something to Worry About

Yes, last post I wrote that worrying was for the birds, but as I continue to reflect upon the teaching of Matthew – and all the Scriptures, I realize there is something that you should worry about.

Your focus. That you have it wrong.  Your thinking.  That it’s misguided.

Admittedly, my own focus and my own thinking may have been off, too.  While I wrote that worrying was for the birds, was I making too light of it?  When we look at the teaching of Matthew 6, we are told several times not to worry.  Specifically, in Matthew 6:25 (CEB) we read, “I say to you, don’t worry about your life…”  Verse 28 asks, “Why do you worry about clothes?” and verse 31 says, “Don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?”  And if we missed or misunderstood any of those, verse 34 makes it crystal clear, “Stop worrying about tomorrow.”

Whether you read the Common English, New International, King James or some other translation, the teaching is the same.  Whether your Bible tells you not to worry, not to take thought or not to be anxious, the command is the same.  No translation offers suggestions; they all offer edicts.  Directives.  Decrees.  Commandments.  And this is where and how we get off base with our thinking and our focus.

Let me be clear.  Worrying is not just problematic.  Worrying is wrong.  Worrying is a sin.  At the risk of offending some readers, I will be bold.  Worrying is a sin just like stealing, killing and adultery.  OMG you say.  But if we disobey God’s word, we sin.  Hmm, you wonder.  Don’t just take my word, let’s consider examples.  Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:2-3).  Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:7 and Luke 17:32).  Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25-33).  Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3).  While you are reading, read 1 John 2:3-6 which cautions us, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  Can it be any clearer?  If we do not keep the commandments of God – not just the ten, but all the commandments of His word, we sin.

And worrying is not somehow a little or a lesser sin.  That’s more of our “misthinking.”  Adultery is a BIG sin.  Stealing is a BIG sin.  Murder is a BIG sin.  Worrying is a little sin.  A cute sin.  A “I can’t help myself, and anyway we all do it” sin.  As my pastor says, we think people go to hell for the BIG sins and, perhaps, to an air conditioned hell for the little sins.  No. Sin is sin.  If you’re thinking otherwise, I caution you; your thinking is misguided.

Matthew 6:33 (CEB) tells us that we should “desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.”  In other words, our focus should be God, His kingdom and His righteousness rather than worrying about our lives, our clothes, what we will eat or drink or about tomorrow.  Further, Matthew teaches, when God is first, all those things will be ours, too!

THIS WEEK reassess your thinking and your focus.  What are you choosing to worry about?  Understand that worry steals your strength and buries your blessings.  Search the Scriptures for examples of those who worried and disobeyed God and those who cast their cares upon Him.  Decide which group you want to be associated with.