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Advent 2018: Hope

by CCCLampasas

Cross-posted  at  TheDeeZone

Today is the beginning is of Advent. Advent is a time for us to prepare for Christmas. It isn’t about shopping, baking, decorations or even preparing for the annual Christmas concert, play or cantata.

Advent is about what God did for us. It is about God’s Radical demonstration of love.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NIV)

Humans were created by God to have a relationship him. Sadly, humans rebelled. It was God who took the initiative to bring restoration and healing to humans.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Christ came into a dark world so we might have hope. A hope that endures even in the most difficult situations. A hope that isn’t based on our circumstances. A hope that gives purpose and meaning even when life seems pointless. A hope that is anchored in the past saving work of Christ, the ongoing strength for today and the promise of future reward.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Have a blessed week.  — Dee

Nate’s Notes: The Lord Gives and Takes Away

by CCCLampasas

Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons

Job 1:21 and said: “Naked I came from my mothers womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Helen Adams Keller, who lived from June 27, 1880 to June 1, 1968, was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of how Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become widely known through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker. She learned to “hear” people’s speech by reading their lips with her hands—her sense of touch had become extremely subtle. She became proficient at using braille and reading sign language with her hands as well.

In 1890, Keller began speech classes at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston. She would toil for 25 years to learn to speak so that others could understand her. From 1894 to 1896, she attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. There, she worked on improving her communication skills and studied regular academic subjects. Around this time, Keller became determined to attend college. In 1896, she attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, a preparatory school for women.  In 1946, Keller was appointed counselor of international relations for the American Foundation of Overseas Blind. Between 1946 and 1957, she traveled to 35 countries on five continents.

It is hard to imagine a tougher life of suffering than to be born both deaf and blind. Hellen Keller looked at life in the proper way:

Helen Keller stated: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Job had wealth, status, a large family, and land. He faithfully served the Lord and even during incredible suffering, Job remained faithful. His wife told Job to curse God and die. His friends, instead of comforting Job, accused him of sinning against God. The Lord remained the one constant through Job’s trials. Even when he could not understand Yahweh’s actions or sense His presence, Job endured.

The writer of Ecclesiastes also understood that the Lord gives and takes away.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  1 There is a time for everything,  and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,  5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up,  a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7a time to tear and a time to mend,  a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate,  a time for war and a time for peace. 

There are seasons in life when we are on the mountain tops and times when we are in the valleys. Hellen Keller knew suffering her entire life but she did not let her problems master her or control her destiny. No matter what season of life you are in, the Good Shepherd guides and loves you. For God so loved you, that he sent Jesus to live a perfect life, die a cruel death, rise from the grave, and ascend to the Father in glory.

Charles Spurgeon remarked in his sermon A Happy Christian:

The worldly blesses God while he gives him plenty, but the Christian blesses him when he smites him: he believes him to be too wise to err and too good to be unkind; he trusts him where he cannot trace him, looks up to him in the darkest hour, and believes that all is well. (Suprgon, Charles H. A Happy Christian. MTP 13:103)

All is well because we know who holds the future. All is well because of our relationship with the Triune God. We can experience true joy, true love, and true peace in Christ. Job completed our passage by stating in faith: praise the Lord! No matter what is happening in your life, praise the Lord!

Prayer:

Father,  We so often do not understand our suffering but we praise you regardless of our circumstances. May we have the faith to realize that You are greater than any problems we will experience. May we realize that You know our future and that You will create a new heavens and a new earth. In the precious name of Jesus we pray, amen.

 Pastor Nathan

Nate’s Notes: Satan Has Asked

by CCCLampasas

Luke 22:31-32 Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Job 1:9-12 Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man, himself do not lay a finger.”

It is a wonderful truth that Satan has limits. In both passages the Lord has sovereign authority. The Devil is a created being, an angel, but Yahweh has always existed. What are some ways that God and Lucifer differ?

God is the only necessary being. Satan is a contingent being. “It is commonly accepted that there are two sorts of existent entities: those that exist but could have failed to exist, and those that could not have failed to exist. Entities of the first sort are contingent beings; entities of the second sort are necessary beings.” The universe could exist without Lucifer; it cannot exist without God.

The Triune God is everywhere. Angels and demons are limited like we are to one location. The Holy Spirit is inside every believer. There is no where that we can go without the presence of the Lord.

Yahweh is the Creator. The Accuser can only corrupt what the Lord has already made. The Lord is the author of all good things. The Father, Son, and Spirit created the universe. Demons are fallen angels; they can only deceive and destroy. We are to stand firm against the Evil One with the armor of God (Ephesians 6).

God is the righteous judge. Satan and his minions will be condemned.

Revelation 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

The Alpha and Omega is omniscient! He knows everything and leads us as a shepherd leads their sheep.

Jesus has already won. Satan lost through Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, obedient life, death, resurrection, and ascension. We are awaiting with anticipation when Christ will return for his church.

The Triune God is the master of time. Yahweh never changes, and His plans will never be defeated.

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Prayer:

Father, You are glorious and holy. May Your name be praised forever. May we rely on You when we battle against our flesh, the world, and the Evil One. Thank you that you are without comparison. In the holy name of Jesus, we pray, amen.

Pastor Nathan

Nate’s Notes: Pray Like Paul

by CCCLampasas

Ephesians 1:17-19a  17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

A rabbi said to a precocious six-year-old boy, “So your mother says your prayers for you each night? Very commendable. What does she say?”  The little boy replied, “Thank God he’s in bed!”  (Children’s Prayers)

The young boy’s mom expressed her thankfulness in prayer. Paul revealed a rich prayer life in his Epistles (or letters) to the churches. His personal encounters with Christ in prayer shaped how he interceded for other believers. He often included an appeal to God for the churches near the beginning of his letters. What can we learn from his prayer for the Ephesians?

He addressed the Father with reverence.  This parallels  the Lord’s Prayer when Jesus begins with ‘”Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Both Christ and Paul obey and respect the Father. Their prayers are not flippant or overly familiar. Although Jesus knew Him as His Abba Father, he also knew Yahweh as the ruler of the universe whose name should be hallowed or honored.

Paul was consistent. He perseveres in lifting up other Christians. We can learn a lot from his statement that Paul “keeps praying.” Do we endure day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year? It is so easy to get distracted or to give up in frustration. What if the Israelites had stopped walking around Jericho after a few days because they did not understand why God had them circle a city each day? What if Joseph had grown tired after his brothers sold him into slavery? What if he had given in to the advances of Potiphar’s wife? What if Joseph had renounced the Lord while he rotted in prison? What if Noah stopped building the ark due to his neighbor’s ridicule? God often works through us as we are faithful over time, in and out of season.

 Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Paul’s prayer explicitly mentions the Trinity. We serve a the Lord, Three in One. So many people want a god that they can easily understand. I do not want that. I would rather be in relationship with Yahweh who is infinite in knowledge and power. He is so good, holy, and wise that we often do not fully comprehend how He works in and through us. Do you want an idol in your own image, or do you desire to bow down in worship before the Alpha and Omega, the God who is, who was, and who evermore will be?

I cannot do justice to this prayer in a single devotional. If I filled every book in the world with praises to the Lord, my words would not begin to adequately describe and extol our Lord and Savior.

Prayer:

Father,

May we prayerfully read and apply Ephesians and the rest of Scripture to our lives. I pray that we will grow in knowledge and insight as we walk with You. We know that You love us more than I can express in words. We are cherished by the Almighty. May You be glorified, honored, and praised forever. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.

Pastor Nathan

Nate’s Notes: The Lord is Close

by CCCLampasas

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;  Psalm 34:17-19 New International Version

A dad wrote about a trip he took with his son. One day, while my son Zac and I were out in the country, climbing around in some cliffs, I heard a voice from above me yell, “Hey Dad! Catch me!” I turned around to see Zac joyfully jumping off a rock straight at me. He had jumped and then yelled “Hey Dad!” I became an instant circus act, catching him. We both fell to the ground. For a moment after I caught him I could hardly talk. When I found my voice again I gasped in exasperation: “Zac! Can you give me one good reason why you did that???”

He responded with remarkable calmness: “Sure…because you’re my Dad.” His whole assurance was based in the fact that his father was trustworthy. He could live life to the hilt because I could be trusted. Isn’t this even more true for a Christian? 1

Please read over the passage from Psalm 34 slowly and notice all of the verbs. The righteous cry out in their time of trouble and have many problems but all other actions are done by the Lord. The Lord hears, delivers, is close, and saves. Those are such beautiful promises to faithful believers. We receive so many blessings from the Father. Notice that the Lord is our perfect father.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. 18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. Psalm 145:17-19

The Triune God always acts rightly and is forever faithful. The Lord is close to all who call upon him! God is not a distant tyrant just waiting for you to sin, so that He can punish you. Yahweh is not an absent father who created the universe and then abandoned it. The King of Kings is not so high and lifted up that He cannot hear your prayers. God is not a mute idol made of human hands. God is holy and exalted; however, the Lord is also close and loves us as a mother cares for her child.

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;  and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13

God acts towards us a caring parent who comforts and aids us. This is a relationship. We also need to love God and love others as He loves us. This week consider your life with the being of all beings who cares for you more than any earthly mother or father. If your parents have died or you have a strained relationship with them, remember always that you are loved by the Alpha and Omega, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Prayer:

Abba Father,

We praise you for your faithfulness and righteousness. Thank you that are near to us as a hen is close to her chicks. You will not abandon or mistreat us. In the precious name of Jesus we pray, amen.

Pastor Nathan

Source:

  1. Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, Word Books Publisher, 1987, pp. 46-47.