Hearing the Music

in Rest

Held Fast

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One of the gifts during the Thanksgiving holiday was a focused time to reflect on how thankful I am for those that are persevering in the face of particular difficulties of life.  I know that in one sense this describes all of us on our “pilgrim” journey, but many in the body of Christ, both at Christ Church and more broadly, are either bearing particular difficulties right now, or are walking with those in the throes of the fight.  

I am grateful for sustained faith.  I realize that sometimes it may seem weak to those in the midst of the trial and all faith is always hard fought. But it is a true testimony to the power of the Gospel and an encouragement to those observing from the outside. 

St. Augustine said many years ago commenting on the faith of the martyrs in a sermon entitled, On Reprimand and Grace

In fact, greater freedom is necessary against so many great temptations that did not exist in Paradise --  a freedom defended and fortified by the gift of perseverance, so that this world, with all its loves and terrors and errors, may be overcome. The martyrdom of the saints has taught us this. In the end, using free choice with no terrors and moreover against the command of the terrifying God, Adam did not stand fast in his great happiness, in his ready ability not to sin. The martyred saints, though, have stood fast in their faith, even though the world ... savagely attacked them -- in order that they not stand fast … where does this come from, if not by God's gift? 

We are no longer in paradise, and we know the “savage attacks” of this world … but praise God, His grace is sufficient. What a gift! And it truly is a gift. All of us walking through the fire, being acutely aware of our frailty, will readily attest to the giftedness of faith. But what a testimony to see God’s children held fast, even if by a thread, proving the Gospel is real.  So let me say thank you to all walking through the deep waters while keeping their eyes on Jesus.

in Advent

Waiting and Watching

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It is a quick turnaround this year from clearing the Thanksgiving plates to hanging the Advent calendars. As we think about Advent and all that goes with it, it is good to remind ourselves of where we are in The Story. I like this description from my friends at the Daily Prayer Project:

Advent is the first season of the Christian year. It is the season that waits and watches for the second coming of the Lord Jesus, the Son who will descend from heaven (1 Thess 1:10). As another year arrives and we begin to tell The Story of Jesus and the church over again we start at the end. The word Advent comes from the Latin Adventist which means a “coming” or “visitation”. During the season, the church longs and waits for the end of The Story while living in the dramatic and painful tension of the present, the “already and not yet”. This waiting frames our experience in this preparatory, somber, penitential, and joyful season before the great and luminous celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany. Over these four weeks of Advent we slowly move from darkness to light. This season is also one in which we read and remember Israel's time of waiting before the first coming of the Messiah, when Habakkuk cried out “O Lord how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2) and Zephaniah proclaimed “the great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast,” (Zeph 1:14).

We, as God's people, know where the story is going - “all things new” (Rev. 21:5) - and so we acutely know how unfinished it really is. Therefore, we look and love into a world with holy impatience, wanting our hearts to mirror the King’s and longing for the earth to mirror his Kingdom. “Come Lord Jesus.” This is the heart of Advent.   

As we wait and watch we will be looking through the lens of Glory. "Glory to God in the highest" is what the angels proclaimed as they announced the incarnation to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14). We will start here this first Sunday in Advent as we journey together toward the light of His Glory!

 

Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

Giving Thanks

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I am sure that you are thinking about Thanksgiving this week: family, friends, food, time off from school ... the Lions. As I think of things that I am thankful for, tops on the list are the truths contained in these last verses of Romans 8.

If God is for us, who can be against us? … in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

As we walk the path that God has laid for us, paths often strewn with disappointment, hurt, hardship, temptation, etc … my prayer for each of us this Thanksgiving is that we would find an anchor beyond our circumstances in these precious promises of our Lord. As Paul puts it in his marvelous prayer for the Ephesians, that we “would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:19).” 

Join us next Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, as we gather as a community to give thanks to God for “the good” that he has been woking in our lives this year!

 

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

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