Advent Day 19 – Promise Maker – Promise Keeper

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people” Luke 1:68.

When our son was born 25+ years ago, my husband and I were thrilled.  We had experienced seven years of infertility and heartache, but God heard our prayers and this little baby boy came bursting into our lives.  But in those seven long years of waiting I watched with an aching heart as my friends became Mamas – I hosted their baby showers and bounced their sweet babies in my arms.  I cried and prayed and cried some more.  I know God heard my prayers and saw my tears, but the time wasn’t right.

The Jewish people lived under the bondage of Roman rule and they cried out for a savior.  The Messiah had been promised for hundreds of years yet they were still oppressed by a cruel and heartless enemy.  Would God ever fulfill His promise?  Would salvation ever come?  Generations of Hebrews prayed the same prayer for relief, yet they went to their grave without ever seeing rescue.  Yet the God of Heaven had not abandoned them or His promise.  He had heard their prayers and saw their tears, but the time wasn’t right.

Until that moment when the angel visited Nazareth and spoke the words every Jewish girl had hoped to hear: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).  Until all of heaven held its breath as the Son of God became the son of a young woman.

That day in the Garden sin came rolling in like a dark cloud of destruction and despair.  The human race was placed under the bondage of evil and death.  Even the planet felt the weight of the curse as it groaned for relief (Romans 8:19-22).  Yet even before man could cry out to God He promised to send Someone who would crush the head of the evil one.  He promised to redeem the world from the curse of sin and death. He promised to save the souls of men and women and break the chains of human bondage.

The first part of that promised was fulfilled in a stable in Bethlehem.  The final fulfillment is yet to come when the Lord Jesus Christ – that baby in the manger – stands on the Mount of Olives and ushers in the end of evil and sin and death.  God kept His promise when Jesus was born.  He will keep His promise of final redemption.  Don’t despair beloved, but keep your eye on the sky.  The God who promised is faithful. It is as good as done.

Read Zechariah 14:3-9


Peace When I am Afraid

“Peace! Do not be afraid.”  Judges 6:23

At Christmas we celebrate our loved ones with gifts.  We consider the recipient and choose carefully something that will have special meaning or significance to them.  I love to give gifts that I know someone would love, but that they wouldn’t get for themselves.  When God considered us, He chose to send us a gift that we couldn’t give ourselves – the gift of peace. This Advent season we rejoice in His promise of peace in the face of our fears.

One of the biggest barriers to peace is fear.  We have all experienced fear of some kind.  I have a fear of heights. One of my friends has a fear of crowds, another a fear of tight spaces.  Some fears are good for us, like the fear of snakes.  Some are common to most of us as in the fear of the dark.  For some people fear takes on irrational proportions and becomes an unhealthy psychological problem.  We live in a world that breeds fear and causes us to look at others with a question, “Should I be afraid of you?”

There is also fear that invades our minds and hearts – fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death.  With so much to be afraid of, is there any way to be at peace?  Yes, because we have a Prince of Peace and His word to us is “Do not be afraid.”

In fact a search of those words shows at least 76 times in Scripture that we are told “do not be afraid.”  God knows us so well.  He knows that we will become fearful at times, and He knows we need His peace.

How can we have peace when we are afraid?  Psalm 56:3 is the perfect answer: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust, I will not be afraid.”   The answer to fear is trust.  We can trust God and rest our fears because He is faithful.  His Word is filled with His promises, promises that will bring us peace if we will trust in the Promise-maker.  We have the promise that He will always be with us, as He told Joshua – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). We have the promise of His strength – “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  We have the promise of His deliverance – “Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose” (Jeremiah 15:13).

We have the promise if His blessing:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

This Advent season hear the angels proclaiming the greatest news man can ever know:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:14 (KJV)

 Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our peace, I have your promises to bring me peace when I am afraid.  Thank you for knowing Your child so well and for giving me the gift of peace.  Amen.

The Hope of Salvation

“Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us.  This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

The nation of Israel looked and longed for the salvation of the Lord.  He had promised to send them a Savior, and so they watched and waited with an eye always turned toward the Temple, the Sanctuary of God.  Today we will look at the Hope of God’s salvation in this fourth day of Advent.

The prophets of Old declared the Word of the Lord; a Word that foretold both coming destruction and coming salvation.  The Jewish people would soon fall to their ruthless enemies and suffer great oppression.  But they had hope, because they had God’s promise for salvation from their enemy.  And so they waited for their deliverer.  They waited, not with a “wishful” hope, but with an expectant hope, confident that the Lord their God would fulfill His promise.  And He did – but not in the way they expected.

You see, Israel’s greatest enemy was not a foreign nation.  Israel’s greatest enemy and ours is death-and Israel, like all mankind needed a Savior who could defeat death and give us life.  That Savior is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Advent season is traditionally one of preparation and waiting – waiting with that expectant hope and confidence in the faithfulness of God.  Two people are highlighted in Luke’s Gospel as great “waiters,” Simeon and Anna. Scripture says of Simeon, “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel…it had been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:25, 26)  When Jesus’ parents came to the Temple to dedicate the Holy Infant, Simeon recognized the Promise of God and, taking Jesus in his arms, he praised God – “My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation…”(v. 30-31). Anna was a long-time widow who gave herself night and day to worship, fasting and prayer.  Verse 38 says “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”  Did you catch that – “to all who were looking forward to the redemption” (emphasis added).

We live in a world fraught with evil, sickness, hatred and despair.  But we are not hopeless.  We have the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation in the God-man, Jesus Christ.  He alone is our hope for salvation.  It is not a vain hope, for Jesus has already defeated our enemy.  By His death, we are free from eternal death; by His resurrection we have eternal life.

As we rush through stores and celebrations and parties, let us commit to keep one eye always trained on He who is the Hope of all mankind, the Promise of God, Jesus Christ – our Salvation.  The greatest Christmas Gift of all.

Oh Lord my God, You alone are “mighty to save (Zech. 3:17).  I rejoice in Your promise of salvation, a promise You fulfilled through Jesus, born as a tender infant, born to save and redeem me.  My hope is in You, my Savior and My God.  Amen


Hope in the Darkness

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

When do we most need hope?  In the darkness, in the season of pain and heartache and despair.  When it is hardest to find.  Our 3rd day of this Advent series focuses on the hope we must have to survive those seasons of darkness.  The hope in the promise of the Light of Jesus Christ.

I recall a trip to the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, and a room deep within the caverns where the park guide turned out all the artificial lights – the room was plunged into total darkness.  For a moment I was overcome by a sense of despair and fear.  In that pitch black darkness I lost all orientation, had no idea where the exit was, or where anyone else was.  If my friend had not grabbed my hand, I would have thought myself completely alone.

There are seasons of our life that are like that cave adventure, when it seems that we are lost in a deep, black darkness.  We are overwhelmed with despair, confused and disoriented-not knowing where to turn or how to escape, and we feel completely and utterly alone.  I know this one well.  I walked out of that cave in the park, but years later fell into a pit of emotional and spiritual utter darkness that lasted nearly two years.  Yet God brought me through.

While we stood in the darkness inside that cave, the guide lit one small match.  With that single flickering flame, the darkness was overcome.  In my season of darkness God kept one small flame flickering for me – His Word, and in the Scriptures I found the promise of light.

You see darkness is the absence of light – but where there is even the smallest light, darkness has lost its power.

From the first day of creation, God determined that light should overcome darkness: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:3-4).  He created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day “to separate light from darkness” (v. 18).

Adam and Eve plunged this world in to the darkness of sin, and so we are disoriented in spiritual darkness.  Rather than the sun and moon and stars, we walk in the distorted light of the world.  And so God sent His Son, Jesus to be “the Light of the world” (John 8:12).  His light overcame the darkness of sin and evil; and His light can overcome the darkness and despair of living in this world with all its struggles and heartaches and pain.

Paul wrote “God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).  This Advent season, as you enjoy the lights of Christmas, let the light of the Christ Child come in and dispel the darkness.  Live in the Light of Jesus Christ.

Holy Father, You have declared through your Son that “darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).  Let Your wonderful light shine in and through me Jesus – not only at Christmas, but all the days of my life.  Amen.


At God’s Right Hand (Part 5 of the Apostles’ Creed)

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From the Apostles’ Creed

“The Lord said to my Lord; ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”  Acts 2:34

Through the Apostles’ Creed, we have considered God, who is the Creator of heaven and earth, and we have seen Jesus Christ, the Son of God; from birth, suffering, death and resurrection.  What happened after Jesus’ resurrection?  Where is Jesus now and what is He doing?  And why does this matter to my faith?  As always, we look to the Word of God to answer these questions.

The Gospel writer, Luke, tells us of Jesus being taken into heaven in front of the very eyes of those that walked with Him and would passionately carry His story into faraway lands.  He writes, “While [Jesus] was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke 24:51)  Luke continues this testimony in Acts 1:9 when he says, “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.” In another Gospel account, Mark writes, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19) So how can we know that He truly is there?  We have the testimony of Saul (who became Paul) who heard a voice from heaven clearly identify Himself as “Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:5) We also have the account of Stephen, one of the newly appointed disciples, who gave an eyewitness report from the site of His own death by stoning.  Take in the beauty of his words; “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  ‘Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7:55-56) As he drew his final breaths, Stephen was given a glimpse of His Savior in heaven, at the right hand of His Father.  This was not the ramblings of a delirious man, but a bold declaration made under the power of the Holy Spirit.  Ever the faithful witness, Stephen proclaimed aloud the majesty of what he saw.  The writer of Hebrews confirms his vision in Hebrews 8:1 which says, “We have a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” As an interesting aside, note that Jesus is “standing at the right hand of God.”  in Stephen’s testimony.  Why standing? Look at Acts 8: 59: “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Though Scripture does not give us details, I believe Jesus stood to receive Stephen into glory, to embrace this servant who died declaring the truth of the Gospel, and to welcome him home.

Is Jesus just sitting around on His throne waiting for us to die?  Not at all.  Romans 8:34 tells us that “Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for us.”  Looking at the root definitions for the word “interceding,” we understand that Jesus is with the Father, and “reminding” Him (as if God could forget) that we have taken part in His death through our faith, and that He, Jesus, has provided the perfect sacrifice for all of our sins.  Jesus reminded the Father that your angry outburst yesterday has been covered by His blood and sacrifice.  He interceded for you when you let your mind wander into sinful thoughts and for me when jealous envy overtook my heart when I saw my co-worker’s new car.  He died to provide atonement for every sin you and I have committed and will commit before our lives are done.  He lives now to intercede for us, pouring His precious blood over every stain that our sin creates.

Jesus is also at work, preparing a home for all who will believe and trust in Him.  He made this promise in John 14:2-3: “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you, [and] I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  Jesus is fixing up your room in His Father’s house.  Just the right colors and furnishings, everything will be perfect for you when you arrive.  Do you suppose His portrait will be hanging on the wall?  No, for we will not need pictures, we will see Him face to face, in all of His glory.  Imagine, all of the great men and women of the Bible, the martyrs, missionaries, servants, those who preached to great audiences of people, and those who lovingly wiped feverish brows in the name of Jesus all together in the great halls of God’s house.  And oh, what wonderful reunions with those who made it home before us!  My mom will be there, and dear and precious friends that I miss so much.  We will all share in the joy of God’s house, for Jesus has been working all this time to make everything ready.  No wonder He “apprenticed” as a carpenter for thirty years here on earth.

Faith in Jesus Christ is incomplete unless we know and believe that He waits for us in heaven, sitting at the right hand of our Father, interceding on our behalf.  Faith must believe that Jesus is preparing our eternal home, and He will stand to receive us when we come to this life’s end.  Is your faith in this life alone, or is it a faith that will carry you into eternity?

Eternal Savior, I am in awe of You.  You gave your life to ransom me from death, and You live in eternity waiting for me to come home.  I will see you face to face – Oh what a glorious day that will be!  Amen.


When My Spirit Grows Faint Within Me

“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way.”  Psalm 142:3

Have you ever gotten weary?  Weary is more than just tired.

Weary goes down into the bones and drains your energy and hope.  Weary affects body, mind and spirit. You know what I mean.  When the stack of bills gets higher but the job prospects are shrinking, when you take your child to one more specialist, only to hear him say, “I don’t know how to help her.”  Maybe you are in a difficult marriage, have an elderly parent you are trying to care for, or are dealing with an adult child who can’t find his way in life.    Perhaps your work is pulling you down or you are struggling with a particular sin you cannot break free of.  You are weary.

David, the author of Psalm 142, understood weary.  At the time of this writing, David is hiding in a cave from the current King of Israel, Saul, a jealous and unstable ruler.  Though he is an innocent man, he has been running for his life for many long months.  He feels all alone – listen to verse 4-“Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me.  I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.” He describes his situation as “desperate,” (v. 6) he sees himself like a prisoner (v. 7).  He is tired, he is lonely, and he is weary.

But he is also wise, because he knows where to go for strength.

He turns to the Lord.  In this Psalm he says; “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord,” “I pour out my complaint before him,”” (v. 1, 2) Because David is confident of God’s mercy (v. 1), he confesses his weakness and finds the strength he desperately needs in the face of his troubles.  He remembers who God is and encourages himself as he declares that God is his refuge (v. 5), God will rescue him (v. 6), and set him free (v. 7).

The amazing thing about this Psalm is that David knows his destiny is not to run and hide forever.  His destiny is the Throne of Israel; for God, through the prophet Samuel, has already anointed him. He cries out to God, and trusts Him to fulfill what He had already promised.  God knew “the way” he was taking , and He knew the way to bring him to the palace.

David is a wonderful example for us.  He took his needs and his feelings to God. He didn’t put on a brave face before God, but was open with his pain and loneliness. He recalled God’s character and His promise to be David’s refuge and helper.  Did you notice that as David focused his mind on God, his lament turned to praise?  Now David is speaking of his rescue as if it has already happened, and he is planning the testimony he will share on the other side of this difficult time.

Are you weary today? Has the path of your life taken you into the wilderness?  Turn to the Lord, and cry out to Him for strength and hope.  Remember his character and His promises.  Remember that, in Christ, you are a child of the King, and your destiny is eternal life with your Father.  Yes, God knows the way you are taking now, and He knows the way to get you where you belong.

He knows the way home.

Holy Father, when the struggles of this life make me weary, You know my way – because You are right beside me, leading me home.  Amen.