Luke 2:11-14 (NIV)
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
This past year, Jennifer and I welcomed the birth of our third grandchild, our first granddaughter, Annalise. As I’ve watched her grow from those very first 3-D sonogram images to the tiny preemie who was born five weeks early and now to a sweet and wonderful almost toddler, I’m reminded every day of the potential she carries inside her. As humans, we invest ourselves in our progeny. We have all kinds of dreams for them. We try to ensure they have all they need to grow into loving, giving, responsible adults.
I often think of Joseph and Mary in their role as the earthly parents of a young Jesus. While both understood the role they were chosen by God to play, I suspect they were still very human parents. They had hopes and dreams for their infant son. They both knew who their child was. I’m sure they both understood there would be times of joy, times of trial, and even times of heartbreak ahead. Imagine the responsibility they felt knowing who their child would grow to be. In the end, Joseph and Mary likely had to trust God to take care of their child. You know, just like all parents – at the end of the day, we choose to worry ourselves to death or to trust God to look out for our children. And that’s one of the hardest things for any of us to do – trusting God. In this Advent season, let’s choose to trust God and focus on hope.
Romans 15:13 (NIV) 13“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
By Nate Newell
King David writes in Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, oh whom shall I be afraid?”
When people remember King David they often remember his great feats, and his courageous faith, but no one ever brings up how scared he must have been … I look back at the things he had to face: lions, bears, giants, and even entire nations waging war against him. I think to myself, if I was alive back then, would I be as brave as David? Then I go on to think, what dangers do I face? Are they even remotely as dangerous? While we might not have to do battle with a 9 ft warrior we do have to battle traffic on Loop-1604. We don’t have to wrestle lions and bears to protect our flock of sheep, but we do have to worry about the mergers on I-410.
We should take our cue from David and put our trust in God, not our GPSes. In Psalm 27 David says the Lord is his stronghold, the bible also says God is an ever present help in trouble.
Put your trust in God, pray, sing praise! For he is our salvation, we need not fear anything. Psalm 27 puts into words the thing that everyone wants to hear, salvation from sin, and defense from danger. God protects us from all things and all he asks in return is that we talk with him. Pray before a meal, thank God for a friendship, for “The Lord is our salvation.”
By Mike Elliot
I think that one of the most powerful verses in Psalm 27 is verse 14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Often in my life I can get impatient. I have all these plans for college, finances, friends, and family. Several times these plans don’t go quite how I envisioned. All the distractions of life tend to just get in the way.
Whenever that happens I try to do my best to keep positive, but every once in a while it feels like the world is out to get me. It’s almost as if the enemies of the Lord are doing their best to try and tear me down. During these times I need to remember that the Lord is my light and salvation! There is not a thing in this universe that is more powerful than my God.
When I read this Psalm, I immediately think back to the anthem I performed with YouthCUE that was based on this scripture. While having this song stuck in my head I started pondering what might have been going through David’s mind while he wrote this song. What kind of crisis was he facing to come up with the words in verses two and three. He mentions enemies, foes, and an enemy army. What is even more amazing to me is that in verse four he doesn’t ask for his enemies to be defeated. He asks that he may dwell in the House of the Lord for his whole life, and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.
Compared to the challenges David faced, I have had it pretty easy. I want to be like him and instead of worrying about the challenges that I am facing, focus on God and continue to seek Him every single day. If I continue to seek Him, and wait patiently for Him, I won’t need to worry about all the plans that I have for myself, but I can be quiet and listen to the plans that He has for me instead. He provides the perfect plan that I could never come up with myself. Now it’s up to me to follow it and trust in Him.
By Lance Mayes
It is easy to be afraid; we have so much to be afraid of — at least that’s what they tell us. We need to be afraid of North Korea. We need to be afraid of ISIS. We need to be afraid of foreign and domestic terrorists. We need to be afraid of those who want to traffic our children. We need to be afraid of immigrants. We need to be afraid of Muslims.
No we don’t. We don’t need to be afraid. Yes, we need to be wise, but we do not need to be afraid. We can trust that whatever we face, God is with us. We can have confidence that God listens to us.
We are to wait patiently for God. It is difficult for us to wait. We are so used to getting what we want when we want it. We can DVR TV programs and watch them whenever we want and even fast-forward through the commercials. God’s timing may be different than our timing. We can still trust that God has not and will not abandon us.
Be encouraged today. This video is from 2010. The text is from Old Testament times.
No question that putting fear behind us and waiting patiently on God is hard. Sometimes it seems impossible. What are you going through that is causing you fear? What is bringing you down? What is causing you discouragement?
Be encouraged today. Pray that God will give you the strength you need. May God hear our prayers.
By Garrett Vickrey
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Child development experts say the best way to raise “successful” and “well-adjusted” children is to teach delayed gratification. Of course, this flies in the face of everything else we experience on a daily basis where no gratification is ever delayed. Just try teaching a three year old that if she cleans her room then she can have chocolate.
Still, what we are trying to do when we teach delayed gratification is to instill the virtue of hope. We practice hope through self-discipline that teaches us the value of this essential to abundant life. The reason we all need to learn delayed gratification is so that we can flex our “hope” muscles in times of difficulty. At times we need to hold out and hang on through uncertainty. We need hope to be able to trust that things will get better.
This is essentially the idea behind this season, isn’t it? We teach children to wait for Christmas. They see the presents under the tree. They know there is something there for them. But, they have to wait. And in that waiting there is hoping. And the hope grows stronger in the waiting.
There are no better verses to read on this day ― the first Sunday of Advent― than words from Isaiah 40. This is the Sunday we light the candle of hope. Richard Rohr describes hope as, “The patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.”
The mistake we make this time of year is in thinking that Christmas is just for children; or that we must return to some childlike faith. What the world needs is not more immature faith. The world needs your faith grown up.
This is the task of Advent: to wait in patience and trust in order to flex our hope muscles. So that we might prepare ourselves to receive the Christ who comes to us. In the wilderness prepare a way. In your life, clear a path. Find emptiness so there is a place to be filled by the one who comes at Christmas. Don’t rush to resolution or closure. Quick fixes and easy answers are spiritual blindness. Hold out for hope. The hope that the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. May you know that glory this year as we all work on that “delayed gratification” that stretches our hope and awaits the resolution of which we catch the slightest hint when we sing, “Joy to the World.”
By Diana Bridges
Trust is in short supply among humans and many other earthlings. A case in point is my backyard birds. Regardless of my documented commitment to their well-being, they often eye me suspiciously when I’m glancing their way, and generally vacate the feeders by the patio as soon as I make even a quiet move in their direction. Likewise, my dogs, who got a rough start in life, are startled by wind, sudden movements, and the presence of anyone beyond the small number of family members they’ve vetted.
When it comes to trusting God, church folks have a great script. We sing about God’s great faithfulness, and his sovereignty over creation. We have read and maybe even memorized passages like this one, which speak eloquently about the steadfast love of God. However, trust is often easier in a theoretical “big picture” way than when we’re dealing with troublesome specifics. Somehow, we trust God with the world, but not with the illness of a loved one, conflict at work, or forgiveness.
The psalmist reminds God—and, thus, himself—that he is indeed merciful and forgiving, in the same way as the writer of the following epitaph (found at Elgin Catherdral):
Here lie I, Martin Elginbrodde:
Have mercy on my soul, Lord God,
As I would do, were I Lord God
And You were Martin Elginbrodde. (Appleton: The Oxford Book of Prayer)
Our trust problem is rooted in the fact that we’ve sometimes made God, whose commitment to us is well documented, synonymous with life, which is capricious. It’s complicated by our tendency to equate care and rescue. We’ll know we are on the long path to recovery when we begin to note the presence of God in the midst of trying circumstances and when we find ourselves reminding God—and ourselves—of his faithfulness.
By Daniel Zamora
In the “good old days,” Christians used to do bring all the daily life problems to the Lord in prayer and wait for His answer. In the meanwhile, they did their work but trusted God would take care of the big problems.
Christians in the 21st century have a diverse array of challenges that are so different from those in other times in history ranging from technology communications to major relation conflicts caused by but not limited to personality crisis and disorders.
However, we need to be reminded that God is always there for us, no matter if we live in 2014 or in 2199. As people who depend on many resources to maintain our livelihood and sanity, we need to be reminded the words of David in Psalm 37: 3-4:
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture,
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
By Nikki Finkelstein-Blair
Over the past couple of months our family has been on a roller coaster. As a Navy family, we are relocated every three years; we move to a new city, a new job, a new church, a new life–and for two years we can simply Be There. But at that two-year mark, we have the opportunity to look at the available job openings and to make a request for our next duty station (and city, job, church…. and life). We recently hit that two-year mark of our time in San Antonio, so we excitedly scoured The List of jobs that will be coming available next summer, when it will be time for us to move again.
We painstakingly shaped a Top Six list, taking into consideration every possible aspect of the decision: the best career options for Scott, the best choices for our family, our dream jobs and dream locations. We submitted our list, and then waited.
And when the Navy finally came back to us to offer us—we knew—one of those six best-possible-options…. they offered us exactly NONE of them. And of the three choices they gave us, two of them were located in a place we have never wanted to live, and the third didn’t hold any particular interest or promise.
Our immediate reaction was anger. Questioning. A sense of waste for all the time we’d put into our requests. Our instinct was to argue, to complain, to make a whole new list and ask for new options.
But over the course of a few days, I believe God spoke. He spoke through a couple of internet blogs I occasionally read. He spoke through friends we consulted. He even (I believe this!) spoke through a fortune cookie. And this is the message I heard, again and again: “What if you say YES?”
What if you say YES; a big, loud yes? Not just a “Well, okay, if you say so” yes, not just an “I guess I don’t really have a choice” yes, not just a brooding submission of a yes… but a yes full of hope, a yes of anticipation, a yes that says “I’m all in!”
“Yes” doesn’t dispel fear. “Yes” doesn’t mean everything’s going to be easy or rosy. But when we say “yes” we’re affirming that our anxieties aren’t going to rule us. With “yes” we confess our trust in the God who can convert our greatest fears into powerful expressions of faith. With “yes” we proclaim that our frightened, human, instinctive “no ways” can be transformed by the One who is the Way, and that along that Way we, too, are willing to be transformed.