Fourth Day of Advent

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.

Matthew 24:36-44      

NIV

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Jesus tells us that no one knows the time of His return, not even Himself.

We don’t need to be concerned with the timing, but we do need to commit ourselves to the preparation.

Jesus compares His return to the events that occurred in Noah’s day. Noah did not build the ark in a day. It took time to gather the materials needed and to do the actual construction. Then came to process of gathering all the provisions they would need to sustain life until the flood waters receded. Throughout this whole process the people in the area watched and ridiculed Noah and his big boat. They didn’t take his warnings seriously.

The Scriptures have told of Jesus’ return for centuries and sadly many ridicule the message.

We do so at our own peril.

Either you believe that the Bible is the Word of God or you do not.

If you do then why not read it?

Why not study it to learn all that you can about God’s plan for your life?

Why not live each day in great anticipation of Christ’s return?

Christ is our HOPE.

Are you on the sidelines ridiculing others who believe He will return

                                    OR

Are you actively making preparations for the journey?

Third Day of Advent

And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Romans 13:11-14 NIV

“The hour has come”

These words written by the apostle Paul over two thousand years ago still speak to us today.

He was writing to the church in Rome to encourage them to live their faith, to make their actions match their words. They were to live each day in great expectation of Jesus’ return.

If we are to understand just what Paul meant by clothing yourself with Jesus Christ then we need to go back and read the preceding verses in the chapter:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary o submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Paul begins the chapter with their relationship with the government. Ouch!

What has that to do with living my faith?

According to Paul it has everything to do with our faith walk.

If we trust God with our souls, then we must trust Him with our lives.

That means He controls every aspect of our lives: our relationships, our careers, our health, our finances, and yes, our government. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be involved. What it does mean is that we learn all that we can. We pray about the events going on in our world. We ask God for direction for our part in His plan. And then we follow where He leads us. We obey the laws passed by our representatives unless the law goes against God’s law. God is our final authority. As our final authority He will put into power those He wants in power for His purpose.

If you want to see what obedience to God’s plan looks like read the story of Joseph in Genesis. (Chapter 37-47)

At age seventeen Joseph dreamt that he would rule over his family. His brothers were not impressed. They were jealous because their father favored Joseph. They allowed their animosity to grow and one day the opportunity came for them to get their revenge and they sold him to slave traders. He landed in Egypt where he rose to a prominent position in the household of one of Pharoah’s officials. Then he was falsely accused and imprisoned. When he interpreted Pharoah’s dreams Joseph was released from prison and put in charge, second only to Pharoah. When famine was over all the land his family came to Egypt looking to obtain grain. Long story short Joseph’s dream was fulfilled and he was ruler over his family and all of Egypt. Joseph knew that what his brothers had meant for evil God had used for good.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Paul writes of the debt of love we owe. A debt that is never paid in full because we can never out-love God.

Our world needs to see Christians living their faith; answering anger with understanding, hate with love, words of abuse with words of acceptance. We stand firm in our faith trusting God to keep us in every situation.

For we know that God can bring good out of any situation for those who love and serve Him.

The times we live in are difficult but also very exciting because every day we are another day closer to Christ’s return. We are seeing scripture come alive in the events taking place in the world today. Keep looking up!

Second Day of Advent

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains;

it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.”

The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Isaiah 2:1-5

NIV

Are we there yet?

How many times have we heard that question from travelers impatient to reach their destination?

Isaiah speaks of “In the last days” and many today are asking, “Are we there yet?”

How close are we to those last days?

I don’t know.

I do know that we are closer today than we have ever been.

But the day Isaiah talks about has not yet come for sin abounds.

Isaiah calls to us – Let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Keep looking up for you know not when the LORD will return.

Let us be found faithful.

HOPE

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people:

but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.

And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

Isaiah 60:1-3 KJV

We light this candle as a symbol of Christ our Hope.

May the light sent from God shine in the darkness to show us the way of salvation.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

On this first Sunday of Advent was light the candle of HOPE. We find ourselves desperately in need of hope after two years of total upheaval of what we think is “normal.” We are in a dark place. We are fighting a virus that is here to stay if we are to believe the scientists, ever evolving and affecting our lives. We are experiencing economic trauma with costs rising every day. There is political unrest in our country with a divided people and no compromise in view. The heavily populated east and west coast areas believe the country should go in one direction, while the more rural areas of the country believe just as strongly that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Our southern border is wide open and our citizens find themselves under attack with no one in authority acting to bring them relief. Russia is attacking Ukraine, China is threatening Taiwan, North Korea is testing nuclear missiles, and the tensions build. These are added to the everyday frustrations real people face in their real everyday lives – a flat tire on the car, the washing machine breaks, a sick child, a broken relationship, and the list goes on. Life’s pressures keep building.

What are we to do?

Who are you depending on?

If I didn’t believe in a loving God who cares about every detail of my life I would be in despair.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross, so that the relationship that was broken by sin could be restored. Jesus died, the debt was paid, and everyone who accepts his payment is saved.

This season of Advent reminds me that God saw a world in darkness and sent His Light.

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by Him:

and without Him was not anything made that was made.

In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.

(John 1:1-4)

Jesus died on a cross, but He did not remain in the grave. He lives!

And Advent reminds me of His promised return.

And after He had said these things.

He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going,

behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.

They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?

This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven,

will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.

Acts 1:9-11

Behold, He cometh with clouds;

and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him:

and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.

Even so, Amen.

Revelation 1:7

For the LORD Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,

with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:

and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds,

to meet the Lord in the air:

and so shall we ever be with the LORD.

I Thessalonians 4:16-17

Jesus said we would live in a word with trouble. The final battle has not yet been fought. But while we live in a world broken by sin we are not without hope for God sent us His Holy Spirit to guide us, to encourage us, to empower us, and to keep us.

Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.

(John 14:1)

Peace I leave with you,

my peace I give unto you:

not as the world giveth,

give I unto you.

Let not your heart be troubled,

neither let it be afraid.

(John 14:27)

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.

In the world ye shall have tribulation:

but be of good cheer;

I have overcome the world.

(John 16:33)

And so, as we light the candle of HOPE this day

 we stand in the light of God’s love

trusting in the promise of Christ’s return

to take us to live with Him in heaven for eternity.

The marketplace is empty

No more traffic in the streets

All the builders’ tools are silent

No more time to harvest wheat

Busy housewives cease their labors

In the courtroom no debate

Work on earth is all suspended

As the King comes thro’ the gate

Happy faces line the hallways

Those whose lives have been redeemed

Broken homes that He has mended

Those from prison He has freed

Little children and the aged

Hand in hand stand all aglow

Who were crippled, broken, ruined

Clad in garments white as snow

I can hear the chariots rumble

I can see them marching throng

The flurry of God’s trumpets

Spells the end of sin and wrong

Regal robes are now unfolding

Heaven’s grandstand’s all in place

Heaven’s choir now assembled

Start to sing “Amazing Grace”

O the King is coming

The King is coming

I just heard the trumpets sounding

And now His face I see

O the King is coming

The King is coming

Praise God, He’s coming for me

On this first Sunday of Advent I invite you to listen to this song by the Gaither’s and to reflect on God’s gift of a Savior, Jesus Christ. His coming as a baby in a manger gave hope to a lost world and His coming again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords will set right what sin attempted to destroy.

TRUST

Be careful for nothing;
 but in everything by prayer and supplication 
with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known unto God. 
And the peace of God, 
which passeth all understanding, 
shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
Finally, brethren,
 whatsoever things are true, 
whatsoever things are just, 
whatsoever things are pure, 
whatsoever things are lovely, 
whatsoever things are of good report; 
if there be any virtue, 
and if there be any praise, 
think on these things.
Philippians 4:6-8 KJV

It has been almost two years since we sold the home farm in Missouri and returned to Delaware in the midst of a pandemic that turned our lives upside down and inside out. We originally thought we would only stay with our family for six months, a year at the most. Little did we know that it would take us eighteen months to obtain the necessary permits. Thanks to the wonderful folks at H & H Builders we now have a fully closed in house. It is now up to us to complete the inside.

If nothing else, these past two years have taught me that God is in control. Not only is God in control but I can trust Him absolutely. My morning Bible meditation reminded me of this as I read through the devotionals that I am using this year.

Beginning with Experiencing God Day By Day by Henry T. Blackaby & Richard Blackaby

God will not necessarily take your problems away, but He will carry the load for you. He wants you to experience His peace, which is beyond human comprehension. You will never fully understand how God could give you peace in some of the situations you face, but you do not have to understand it in order to experience it. This peace is not just for those who “handle stress well”; it is for everyone! You may know that God wants you to experience peace but wonder how this is possible, given what you are presently facing. Yet, Scripture says to be anxious for nothing. God’s Word clearly indicates that there is nothing you can face that is too difficult, too troubling, or too fearful for God. No matter what your circumstances are, turn your anxiety over to God and let His perfect peace guard your heart.

Followed by the devotion in Streams In The Desert –

Lo, I am with you all the appointed days.

Matthew 28:20

Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear. Rather look at them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto; do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who caress for you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations. –Francis de Sales.

In some ways returning to Delaware has been more difficult than our move to Missouri. When we journeyed west I had no set expectations. I was fully depending on God to get us where He wanted us. And He did just that. He gave us seven wonderful years. He surrounded us with new friends. He kept us in His care. Then He returned us to Delaware, where I had lots of expectations. But my plan was not His plan. These past two years reminded me that God’s plan is better than my plan. The difficult days taught me that nothing is too difficult for God. I may not understand what God is doing but I trust Him to do what is best for me. And I can thank Him for each day He gives me, even the difficult and painful ones because He is always with me. Nothing touches me that doesn’t go through Him first. So He either sent it or He allowed it for HIS purpose.

Praise God!

A New Day

Thank You Lord for this new day.

It has been 24 hours. In some ways I was prepared for this day but I found myself unprepared in some others. After several sleep-deprived nights I thought that last night I would sleep from sheer exhaustion. Instead, I found myself awakened with severe muscle spasms several times. Then in the early morning my thoughts kept coming and I knew it was You, God, calling me to come to You, to talk to You, offering me comfort. And so I write.

We talk about strong-willed children. She was a strong-willed woman. That can make for difficult relationships at times. But there were several occasions in these past two months when with her strong will she made her weak, tired body accomplish tasks that it should not have been physically able to do.

Until one day she could not. No matter how much she wanted it to, her body simply could not obey her demands on it. She was not understanding. She considered that to be an act of disobedience. And didn’t hesitate to let the rest of us know how displeased she was at the situation.

The night before last she was determined to make her body obey her wishes. She insisted that she wanted to get up out of that bed. I explained to her that her legs just could not hold her up any longer. They had served her for 93 years and they were tired. From that moment on, no position suited her. She was  angry at her body but since her body wouldn’t listen to her then we would. And from eight o’clock in the evening until three o’clock the next morning we did. She finally fell asleep exhausted from all that effort and slept most of the day. A niece came to visit and she seemed aware but didn’t speak. Her caregiver got her ready and she settled in for the night. I sat with her, played her Christmas music, and a little after midnight I went to bed.

I got up to check on her in the early morning hours and thought how good it was that she was finally resting. She was. At times her breathing was so shallow and other times there would be what seemed to me these long pauses between breaths and I would wait thinking is it time? But then there would be a rise in her chest and I would know – not yet. But that morning she looked so peaceful and when I touched her she was warm. As I waited the chest did not rise and I knew.

There were phone calls to be made. The hospice nurse came the and made it official. My daughter-in-law came and then a brother and sister-in-law. More phone calls were made, and another brother posted to her social-media page, so the family and friends heard of her passing.

I found myself at odd moments throughout the day thinking she was calling. Someone would move in another room and my head would turn, was she needing something? Then I would remember. I thought that I was weird until my daughter-in-law mentioned that she had experienced the same thing.

After the others had left we worked around the apartment, clearing out the minutia collected over a lifetime. People accumulate the strangest things.

For her it was greeting cards, small tape dispensers, nail clippers, postage stamps, small change, rubber bands, packets from restaurants (sugar, artificial sweeteners, salt, pepper, and even a few butter tubs).

These were tucked in the desk, in kitchen cabinets, and closets – kitchen, living room, pantry, office, bedroom, bathroom. No room was without some of these things.

There is more to be done, but right now I am thanking You, Lord, for the parents that You gave me, for the family that You set me in, and for leading me on an this exciting adventure we call “Life,” I know that You will continue to lead me through these next days, for You promised that You would never leave me. Thank You, Lord.

Till The Storm Passes By

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand

Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Thomas Mosie Lister

Lord, the storms are raging around us.

Literal storms during this hurricane season.

The storm of the war in Afghanistan.

Natural disasters as the earthquake in Haiti.

The increase in COVID cases

– to vaccinate or not vaccinate

– to wear a mask or not wear a mask

– to restrict activities or to open up again.

The storm of political unrest with many no longer trusting in our government.

The storm of disbelief, even in the church, where there are those who have forsaken Your Word – the BIBLE.

Yes, we are in a storm and it is raging all around us but You are still GOD and You are still with us.

We are not alone.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Thank You God, for sending Your Son, Jesus to redeem this fallen world.

I pray for those who face persecution for their faith in Christ.

Give them the strength to endure.

I pray for the lost who do know the Lord Jesus Christ.

May they hear the gospel and believe.

Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without Him.

Macduff

Independence Day 2021

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:32

As we slowly begin to take up our lives again following the past year of shut-downs, masks, and social distancing have we learned anything from our experiences this past year?

Are you still attempting to “do it your way” or have you realized that God is in control and that God wants the very best for you?

God is in control. If you truly believe that then you must trust that He is working out His plan for your life.

Even if you cannot understand what is going on right now, can you trust that God knows what is going on and that God has you exactly where He wants you to be?

Of course this only applies if you are listening to what God is telling you and you are allowing Him to lead you in the way He wants you to go. Then you can trust that you are where He wants you, even if it isn’t where you would have chosen to be.

If you are keeping your focus on God, if you are reading your Bible, meditating on His Word, spending time in prayer, listening for the whisper of the Holy Spirit and obeying what He tells you – THEN you can trust.

But don’t expect an easy road because God doesn’t promise easy, He only promises that the struggles will be worth it.

That is the law of life. What comes easily goes easily. The things we struggle for we value and appreciate. The rewards of life come not to those who have their hands out, but to those who are willing to sacrifice in order to gain their objective. There is much talk about giving people freedom, and people asking to be made free. The simple fact is that freedom cannot be given. It is something for which every race and nation has to struggle. It is not something which can be bequeathed, but something which is attained. One can no more give people freedom than one can give character.

From the commentary on Joshua 17:15 – The Interpreter’s Bible –

What will this year bring? I don’t know.

I do know that God has a plan for my life and that He has a plan for your life also.

Whose plan are you going to follow?

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Joshua 24:15

What road will you take?

Morning Has Come!

They all walked away, nothing to say

They’d just lost their dearest friend

All that He said, now He was dead

So this was the way it would end

The dreams they had dreamed were not what they’d seemed

Now that He was dead and gone

The garden, the jail, the hammer, the nail

How could a night be so long?

Then came the morning

Night turned into day

The stone was rolled away

Hope rose with the dawn

Then came the morning

Shadows vanished before the sun

Death had lost and life had won

For morning had come

The angel, the star, the kings from afar

The wedding, the water, the wine

Now it was done, they’d taken her Son

Wasted before His time

She knew it was true, she’d watched Him die too

She’d heard them call Him just a man

But deep in her heart she knew from the start

Somehow her Son would live again

Then came the morning

Night turned into day

The stone was rolled away

Hope rose with the dawn

Then came the morning

Shadows vanished before the sun

Death had lost and life had won

For morning had come

I love to watch each new day dawn. On the farm in Missouri I would sit on the front porch as the sky began to lighten, knowing that it was already shining on my family on the east coast. The shadows would flee as the sun came over the horizon until it finally rose above the trees across the pasture.

Light will always banish the darkness, even on a cloudy day. With every sunrise I am reminded of God’s faithful presence, every day. I may not see Him or even sense His presence but I KNOW that He is with me every moment of every day, Just as I know the sun is shining in the sky above the clouds.

This song written by Chris Christian, Gloria Gaither, and William Gaither is Easter to me.

HE IS RISEN !

Easter Vigil

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Matthew 27:62-66

What a Sabbath day that must have been for the disciples of Jesus.

Shock and dismay over the execution of the one they had followed for three years.

Fear over what the future held for them.

Did they dare to go to the temple to worship?

Or did they remain in sequestered in that upper room, waiting for a knock on the door from the authorities, seeking to arrest all of them?

Even though Jesus had told them that He would be killed, they were not prepared.

It was the darkest of days for them – BUT – Sunday was coming!