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

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Dance Like the Whole World is Watching

Dancer“David danced before the Lord with all his might.” 2 Samuel 6:14

Deep within the soul of a little girl beats the heart of a dancer.  When she was very small she would twirl around the room making her skirt billow out wide.  She would dance standing on her father’s shoe-tops and spin and sway as her mother sang along with the radio.  When she wasn’t dancing she skipped—down the halls of the church, across the playground at school, curls bouncing as her feet leapt with the joy in her heart.  She got older and the times for dancing were set aside for studies, still she danced in her bedroom to her favorite songs.  Life grew busier and dancing was reserved for formal halls in ball-gowns and high-heels.  Then came her wedding day and she floated down the aisle of the church and danced with her two favorite men—her Daddy and her new husband.  As they settled in to their new lives, he promised to hold her close in the dance of marriage.

But things do not always turn out like our little girl dreams.  Cinderella was a fairy tale, but this was real life.  Somehow the music faded and the dance was abandoned for work and kids and bills.  Her prince charming turned out to be just a flesh-and-blood man who had no energy for spinning across the room anymore.  Every once in a while the sound of music stirred something in her heart, but dancing seemed a far distant dream.  One morning she woke up and realized she had forgotten all the steps.  Maybe it was better that way, because her dance partner had walked away leaving her a broken woman with no heart for the dance anymore.

Sometimes this life can just knock the breath—and the joy—right out of us.  We start out well, full of dreams and enthusiasm, but real-life struggles and heartaches come along and we find those dreams fading and our excitement waning.  Perhaps you are not a dancer at heart, maybe deep inside you are a teacher or a singer, an artist, or like me—a writer and speaker.   Maybe your dream is not so big, but you have a God-given desire to step into something that would bring God great glory; yet you also have a past that has weighted you down with shame and regret.  You have been places you shouldn’t have, entered into relationships you wish you hadn’t, faced hard things you can’t seem to overcome, or had someone else’s choices leave you broken and hurting.   You think, “I can’t dance (or whatever that desire is in your heart), people know my past and they will not approve.”  My friend that is the very reason you need to tie on your ballet slippers again.

In the story that surrounds our key verse, David is making a second attempt to return the Ark of God to Jerusalem after it had been captured in battle.  His first attempt was a humiliating failure that ended in the death of one of his trusted men, all because David failed to follow the rules about transporting the Ark.  He made a mistake, a very costly one, and for a season, left the Ark at a random home and walked away from it, angry and defeated.  But God burdened his heart that the Ark needed to be in its rightful place, so he learned the right way to get the task done and set out once again to bring the Ark home.  And on this attempt, David actually did something that was quite undignified for a king, “dancing and leaping before the Lord,” and he got called out for it, by his wife no less. She said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would” (v. 20).   David’s answer: “It was before the Lord [that I danced]” (v. 21).  He didn’t care what she thought because God was glorified in David’s dance and his people loved him all the more for it.

Here’s a little secret you may not know: everyone has a past, no one gets through life without stumbles and failures and regrets.  Those people that are watching you are just as wounded and broken and hurting as you are.  They may hide it well, but if you get close enough you will see that no one is as perfect as they seem.  And the truth is, we find it very hard to relate to someone who glides through life unscathed.  I don’t want to know that you did everything right in life—I want to know that you’ve stumbled too, but you got up and got back in the dance.

Why do we think we can’t live for the glory of God when we have made mistakes, that we have to sit down when we’ve stumbled in life?  Everyone out there has made mistakes.  If we all sat out the dance because of the mistakes we’ve made, no one would ever dance again.  And that is all the more reason why we should dance or sing or create – to show the world that Jesus forgives and restores and makes life worth living again.  The walking wounded in your world need to see God take the mess of your life and speak a message of hope.

Beloved, someone else has stumbled over the same rock that brought you down; let them know they can get back up again. Dance before the Lord with all your might. The world doesn’t need to see you dancing out of perfection, they need to see you dancing out of redemption.

Holy Father, with all the failures of my past, You still call me to dance before Your throne.  Please use me to show the world that when we fall, Christ gives us hope and restoration and life.  Start the music God, and let me dance.  Amen.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun (Israel), who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty.” Deuteronomy 33:26

I grew up on fairy tales and stories of damsels in distress and spent much of my early life dreaming of my knight in shining armor. It’s such a romantic thought. I would be kidnapped and held captive by someone who was just mean and evil and wanted to defeat everything good. My situation would be so dire, but then, here would come my beloved hero, to defeat the enemy and rescue me. I would be swept up on his white stallion and we would ride off – of course into the sunset – to begin our “happily-ever-after” life together. Even as I grew older and left fairy tales behind, I still looked for that one guy who would right all the wrongs and make everything wonderful. I figured out that, no matter how wonderful he is, no man will every measure up to that expectation.

That is until I met the One Man who did. No, it’s not my husband, though he is a great guy. My beloved hero is Jesus Christ. And the scenario is not just my fantasy fairy tale; it’s really true, for me and for you. It’s true for every person that lives today, that ever lived, and that is yet to live.

There really is someone who is completely evil. His name is Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, and he is the enemy of the One who is pure and good – God, the Heavenly Father. God created a perfect world (Genesis 1:1) and then perfectly created two beings in His image: man and woman – we know them as Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:7). Satan slid his way into this perfect place and took them captive to sin, and because of sin, to death (Genesis 3:1-6). This curse of death and sin has been passed down to every human being (Romans 5:12). We are all held against our will by Satan. You may find that strange given how humanity has chosen sin for thousands of years, but our true will – the soul which God placed in man at creation – longs for Him. But our feet are in the stocks, even as we roam the earth, bound by the enemy of God. Why us? Why does Satan attack man? Because we are God’s beloved creation, made in His image, and what God loves, Satan hates.

How it moved God’s great heart with compassion, to see us, His beloved creation bound in chains of sin and unable to rescue ourselves. So He sent us a Hero, a Knight in shining armor. He sent us a Savior, His own and only Son. In what is only a God-miracle, He set His glory aside and poured His divinity into a mortal shell. The perfect Son of God became the perfect Man, Jesus. He came, not on a great steed, but in a young woman’s womb. He came, not to brandish a sword and kill a mortal enemy, but to carry a cross up a hill and crush the head of the enemy of our souls (Genesis 3:15). He came to take on every sin of every person in every age – He came to bear your sin and mine (Romans 6:10). He suffered. He bled. He died a cruel and torturous death for one reason: because He loves you and me. He came to set us free.

He came to give us life –the life we were created for, before Satan and sin took us captive. This life is ours once again, because Jesus did not stay in the grave. God raised Him from the dead, and He is alive today (Ephesians 1:20). His death set us free from the curse of sin (Romans 8:1-2). His resurrection gives us life, eternal life, forever life (1 John 5:11). That “happy-ever-after”? It is a promise, not a fairy tale. Heaven awaits, the place of pure perfection, our forever home (John 14:2). One day, Jesus will come again to earth. He will come to finish the battle of good vs. evil. He will bring His enemy, our enemy, to his final destruction. And guess how He will come? Yep, on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). He will come as the Rider who is Faithful and True – the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And He will right every wrong, and put an end forever to evil.

This is not just a great fairy tale, though the world tries to claim it is. This is the true reality. This is the over-arching picture of God’s plan. He created us. He loves us. He saw us captive to sin and death and evil, and He sent His own Son to rescue us. I hope this is real for you. I hope you have received this gift of freedom and life that God has offered to you. For those without Jesus, the final fate of Satan in their eternal fate as well. The promise of forgiveness and redemption and eternal life is only for those who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. If you do not know Jesus, please examine the evidence in the Scriptures I’ve highlighted. Ask Him to show you the truth. And pray the prayer at the close of this devotional. Please let me know if you do. I want to rejoice with you. If you already know Jesus, pray a word of thanks for what He has done for you.

This is real life. This is the only question that matters: What will you do with Jesus?

Dear God, I know that I am held captive by sin and my fate is death. I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died to set me free from sin and death. I receive this wonderful freedom and the promise of eternal life. Thank you God, for saving me. Teach me to love you and walk in Your ways all my days. Amen.