The First Day of Advent
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. . . For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.”—Isaiah 9:2, 6-7. (NASV)
Where was Isaiah when this vision came to him? I wonder. Was he in prayer? In a meeting? For months, a growing despair had settled like a wet, cold fog on the people of Judah. Great challenges faced the nation. Real fears. Inadequate kings.
In an unforgettable moment, God found the young prophet and filled his heart and mind with a vision of a coming, capable King!
Now, words seemed inadequate. This coming Prince would be God! A man, but with all the attributes of God. Wisdom. Eternality. Might. God-sized results would come with Him. Peace. Increase without end. The prophet could hardly imagine, much less describe, what he was seeing.
In a moment, Isaiah understood. It is not freedom that men need. It is government. Only a strong, fair, just, wise King could lead the nation to safety. Self-rule is a deep and deepening darkness. Trusting people is always a disappointment.
We see in retrospect what Isaiah saw in prospect. When Jesus came the light shined. The King we need is finally here.
Re:Verse reading–Romans 14:1-21 (day six)
In Romans 14, Paul encourages the strong to “walk in love.” Walking in love tends to change a lot of things, mainly how you relate to others. You are less inclined to think of yourself, and more inclined to think about your neighbor. Your rights, or personal liberties take a back seat to their physical and spiritual needs. You are less likely to say, “grow up,” or “get over it,” and more likely to say things like, “let me help you,” or “I can show you the way.” When you walk in love you are willing to “become all things to all people;” you will slow down rather than speed up, you will remove obstacles along the way, you will serve rather than be served, you may even lay down your life all for the sake of love.
Will you be strong and walk in love today?
Re:Verse reading–Romans 14:1-21 (day five)
We’ve heard it said thousands of times, “The Christian life is not an ‘individual sport’ but rather a ‘team sport’ “. We are called and commanded to live in community, accountability, and fellowship with other believers. These relationships and friendships can be challenging to say the least. There must be mutual respect, discernment, and sacrifice from each believer for these relationships to reflect the love, grace, and power of God. Whether the image of “church body” or “church family” is used, there remains the sense of commitment, connection, and concern for each other. We must be intentional and deliberate in the way we approach and relate to one another. Look at verse 19, “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
So, a couple of questions to consider: How aware are we of our influence in relationships with and responsibility for one another? Would the growth and maturity of another believer be enough motivation to practice patience, gentleness, and sacrifice?
Re:Verse reading–Romans 14:1-21 (day four)
Dear Heavenly Father,
It is that time of year again…cooler air, leaves are beginning to change, the harvest is ripe…and we turn our hearts to thanksgiving. It is a time for us to remember your blessings in our nation’s heritage. You have been generous in Your provision. Cause our hearts to be grateful throughout the year though…Your blessings are not confined to November only. Accept our thanks for the gift of life, thank you for family and for friends. Thank you for your Word that teaches us of you. Thank you for forgiveness and salvation. Thank you for relationships that sharpen us for your service. Thank you for hope…thank you for peace…thank you for the joy of life. Thank you also for the trials that come our way. Thank you for the difficult times that teach us to trust you. Accept our gratitude for your limitless supply of grace. You know our hearts…search us and cleanse us for your glory. There is none beside you…we worship you! In Jesus’ Name We Pray, Amen.
Re:Verse reading–Romans 14:1-21 (day three)
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking.” Just what, then, is the kingdom of God a matter of? If it isn’t a distinct way of living, a particular method of conducting our affairs, a penchant for upending expectations, then why are we learning all this stuff? Paul refocuses our thinking. It is possible for us to get into the habit of calling our behavior “counter-cultural”, when it’s actually a version of “I thank thee that I am not like this tax collector.” Paul instead grounds the kingdom in God’s sovereign intent for humanity: righteousness, peace, and joy. Don’t look for “better behavior”; look for righteousness. Don’t look for agreement among like-minded people; look for peace. Don’t look for satisfaction; look for joy. Where you find those three, you will find God’s kingdom.
Re:Verse reading–Romans 14:1-21 (day two) For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. vs. 15 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. vs 21
In this great body of believers it is not out of the realm of possibility to assume that not everyone will think or act like you. It is also fair to assume that some will think or act counter to what you think wise. Different people have different priorities, this is not a surprise. But if the Body of Christ is to move forward collectively how shall we contend with these differences; especially when they can be so divisive?
Scholar Melanie Ross offers a suggestion in the introduction to her book Evangelical Versus Liturgical? She suggests that we extend the hermeneutic of charity to all those who are ultimately striving for Kingdom work. There are things which we will disagree upon, and some of them may be profound. As we enter this holiday season where we will sit across the table from family and enter into the taboo topics of religion and politics, season your speech with the idea that if we are at the heart seeking to bring others to Christ and we can agree on who he is and what he came to do. This will go a long way towards peace. Happy Thanksgiving.
Re:Verse reading–Romans 14:1-21 (day one)
“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.” v 4.
It is not my job to pass judgement on another believer. (I can speak TRUTH to him. Applied with love, God’s Word is a sharp sword and a healing balm. See Ephesians 4:15.) I am forbidden, however, from being harshly critical of his choices or speculating about his relationship to God as indicated by them. Too many factors are involved. Things that I do not know. I am not his master. Good thing!
“Therefore, do not go on passing judgement before the time; wait until the Lord comes. HE will bring to light what is hidden in the darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”–1 Corinthians 4:5.
Are you critical of another believer? Publicly? Privately? God wisely tells me. Judging others is not my job.
Re:Verse reading–Romans 14 (day seven) “Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake”–v 5.
Is government good? In principle? A necessary check on sinful tendencies in a fallen world? Important question. Our national anthem declares us, “the land of the free.” Do we still need laws and limits imposed and enforced on our individual choices? Yes, says the Scripture.
In Romans 13, Paul declares authority to be part of God’s plan and submission to it a part of every believer’s responsibility. We have dual motivation for doing so. Those who break the law face consequences. Those who believe the Bible submit for the sake of conscience. Christians are good citizens from both fear and faith.
Are there times when we oppose government authorities? Yes. When government overreaches and contradicts the law of God, believers are called to disobey.
In ordinary circumstances, however, a believer remembers that government is good.
Re:Verse reading–Romans 13 (day five)
When you think about “the current times” what goes through your mind? Evil? Uncertainty? Terrorism? Divided Country? Persecution?
Paul had a completely different approach and theology of “the times”. He proposes in Romans 13 that “knowing the time” is a motivation for an attitude of love and acts of love. Throughout Romans 12 and 13, Paul gives a brilliant theology of “the times” worth noting. 13:11 “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.”
A look back to chapter 12 reminds us that we ought not be naive or unaware of the dangers, temptations, and darkness that are present in the current times. We are to avoid conformity. However, in chapter 13 he offers another perspective. In the current times there is also hope, opportunity, and certainty. “Awaken from Sleep”, “The day is near”, “Salvation is nearer”, .
How do you think about “The Times”? Is there a balance between realism and optimism? Is there concern and joy? Is there motivation to love and show God’s kindness and Glory to anyone/everyone?