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The 2017 Advent season has begun!

Advent is a time of anticipation. A time of looking forward to something unbelievably good. Looking forward to Jesus’ birth. God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. God condescending to be with us. Emmanuel.

Honestly, all that doesn’t mean so much to people anymore. Advent in our day and age usually means anticipating buying gifts, going to parties and family get togethers. Things that a lot of people Don’t look forward to. For too many people, the Christ birth event is a minor part of the holiday season, if it exists at all.

Jesus in the manger has lost it’s luster for a lot of Christians for another reason. It happens every year. It’s not new. We Want New. New electronics, kitchen gadgets, clothes and toys. Christmas isn’t new. It’s the same old thing, year after year. I’m 54 years old. I was raised in a Christian family. I have 54 years of Luke 2 and Matthew 1-2 under my belt. What could possibly be new in 2017 Advent? What is there to anticipate?

With this in mind, I began to think about how Jews might have been thinking around the time of Jesus’ birth. The Chosen People of God. They hadn’t had a prophet speak the Word of the LORD to them since Malachi, 400 years earlier. They had been under the thumb of foreign rulers for about 600 years. So, People Of God, how’s that working out for you?

Some of them probably decided that it wasn’t working and gave up on God, but many were holding on to the promises proclaimed by the prophets that someday a Messiah would come and bring peace and freedom. Proclamations like:

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

 Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Some of us look forward to celebrating the birth of the Messiah every year. The Jews had been anticipating that day for over half a millenia!

When I think of looking forward to something good, I  think about our family vacation that we took in July. We drove from Oaxaca, Mexico to Brush, Colorado. In May we began planning for the trip, and the anticipation began. Anticipation of crossing the border into the U.S.A. Anticipation of seeing my parents and sister and oldest daughter. People I haven’t seen for over two years. Anticipation of Mom’s great cooking, as well as Taco Bell and Mountain Dew –  food and drink that are not available here in Oaxaca. Normally we would fly to Colorado, but this time we were going to drive, so we were looking forward to close family time (four days in the car) that would include museum visits, tourist attractions and motel swimming pools (Sally and Kelly, my youngest daughter’s favorite). Anticipation of camping in the mountains and seeing a Rocky’s baseball game.

The fulfillment of all of those things was great. A wonderful time was had by all. Heart’s longings were met and we were filled with joy. And that was after waiting a mere three months.

After waiting hundreds of years, the Messiah came to the Chosen People of God, and brought true spiritual freedom to all who would accept him and his message.  Some were disappointed that he didn’t overthrow Roman rule and bring national freedom.  But many more people through the ages have received something greater to celebrate, freedom from sin and adoption as Children of God.  The hungry eat the living Bread and the thirsty drink the living Water.

One of the Advent readings for the first Sunday in Advent is Isaiah 64:1-9.   Verse four says, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

This Advent season I hope we can all find time to “wait for him”. Wait for Him to reveal himself in new and wonderous ways that can fill our journey on earth with happiness.

In waiting for Him, in meditating on Him, we find hope and joy. Strength and peace. Below is a web address for a video meditation on Advent that may encourage you on your journey.

https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/series/liturgical-meditations/

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I was studying Hebrews chapter eleven, often times called the Hall Of Faith.  Here are a few things I learned about faith –

  1.  Without faith it is impossible to please God              11:6
  2. Faith means believing that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him  11:6
  3. Sometimes faith means you don’t know where you are going      11:8
  4. Sometimes faith means you are a stranger     11:9
  5. Sometimes faith means that you do not receive the things promised      11:13,39
  6. Faith means that you will be tested      11:17
  7. Sometimes faith means choosing to be mistreated     11:25
  8. Sometimes faith means making people angry      11:27
  9. Sometimes faith means being tortured       11:35
  10. Sometimes faith means facing jeers, beatings, chains and imprisonment.     11:36
  11. Sometimes faith means death by stoning, being sawed in two and killed by the sword    11:37
  12. Sometimes faith means being destitute and persecuted     11:37

So, do you want to be a person of faith?  I like to talk about how much God loves us and wants us to be happy.  Where’s the happiness in all that?  The ultimate happiness for people of faith is Heaven.  That’s easy to see by taking another look at Hebrews 11.

Verse 16 tells us that people of faith are longing for a better country – a heavenly one, and that God has prepared a city for them.  Later we see that Moses was “looking ahead to his reward.”  Verse 36 says that some who were tortured, refused to be released, so that “they might gain an even better resurrection.”  The last verse of chapter 11 lets us know that God has planned something better for us.

The main thing to remember about Faith comes to us from verse one, “Faith is the substance of things HOPED for …”  Not so much what we hope for in this world, but in the world to come.

After studying Hebrews 11, I came across some quotes from Timothy Keller about hope and heaven:

“We are future oriented beings, and so we must understand ourselves as being in a story that leads somewhere.”

“The disposition properly described as hope, trust, or wonder … three names for the same state of heart and mind – asserts the goodness of life in the face of its limits.  It cannot be defeated by adversity.”  (Keller quoting Lasch)

“Hope does not require a belief in progress, only a belief in justice, a conviction that the wicked will suffer, that wrongs will be made right, that the underlying order of tings is not flouted with impunity.”  (Keller quoting Genovese)

“Hope that stands up to and enables us to face the worst depends on faith in something that transcends this world and life and is not available to those living within a worldview that denies the supernatural.”

“Christian hope has more power for sufferers than a mere optimism in historical progress.”

“We are trapped in a world of death, a world for which we were not designed.”

“The immortal Son of God was sent into the world, sharing in our humanity, becoming subject to weakness and death.  But then through death he broke its power, in order to free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

“We may physically die, but death now becomes only an entryway to eternal life with him.”

“All death can now do to Christians is to make their live infinitely better.”

(All quotes from Timothy Keller’s book Making Sense of God)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Letting old things die allows God to make all things new.

 Happy is the seed that is buried.

What part of the Bible comes to mind when you think of Faith, Hope and Love?  Many peoplefaith hope love 1 think of 1Corinthians 13, the so called love chapter.  I was surprised to learn the other day that this trio of virtues also occurs in nine other places in the New Testament.  What other three aspects of the Christian life are grouped together so often in the New Testament?  None that I can think of.  They must be important to God and for us that they are found so frequently.  Each one is incredibly important alone, but together they speak volumes to the life of Jesus followers.  I think of the word “synergy”.  A concept that tells us that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.  I believe that this is true with Faith, Hope and Love.

Considering this “whole” of faith, hope and love, I have some thoughts.  I think God loves us and faith hope love 4wants us to be happy.  Because of this he has opened the eyes of our hearts (Ephesians one) and this causes us to begin to understand the depths of his love (Ephesians four) and Faith comes alive in our being (Ephesians two – no, this is not a study of Ephesians).  With this Faith we begin to love God and our fellow man.  This love idea is basically a new concept for us that comes from the Greek word agape, which means to give of ourselves to those in need, without merit; those who have done nothing to deserve our love, and whom we don’t expect to pay us back.  This is the kind of love God shows humanity a million times a day, and is especially apparent in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  Because of the Faith that this love fosters within us, we begin to demonstrate this kind of love toward others.  Experiencing this love causes us realize that God is not only good and generous to us in this life, but that there is an afterlife which will make us far happier than we can imagine trodding this earthly soil.  That is our hope.faith hope love 3

My purpose in this post is not to give a theology of faith, hope and love, but to give you the scriptures that mention faith, hope and love, allowing you to ponder the significance of these virtues as a whole, and let God grow the truth of these attributes in your hearts and minds.

Ten New Testament Passages With Faith, Hope and Love

1Th 1:2,3      We thank God for you and always mention you in our prayers. Each time we pray, we tell God our Father about your faith and loving work and about your firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Th 5:8         But we belong to the day. So we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armor. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet.

Rom 5:2-5       Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we place our faith. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.  But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.

1Co 13:13       For now there are faith, hope, and love. But of these three, the greatest is love.

Gal 5:5,6         But the Spirit gives us hope that God will accept us because of our faith in Christ. If you are a follower of Christ Jesus, it makes no difference whether you are circumcised or not. All that matters is your faith that makes you love others.

Col 1:4,5         We have heard of your faith in Christ and of your love for all of God’s people, because what you hope for is kept safe for you in heaven. You first heard about this hope when you believed the true message, which is the good news.

Heb 6:10-12     God is always fair. He will remember how you helped his people in the past and how you are still helping them. You belong to God, and he won’t forget the love you have shown his people.  We wish that each of you would always be eager to show how strong and lasting your hope really is. Then you would never be lazy. You would be following the example of those who had faith and were patient until God kept his promise to them.

Heb 10:22-24      So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water.  We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us.  We should keep on encouraging each other to love and to do helpful things.

1Pe 1:21,22       And when he did come, it was to lead you to have faith in God, who raised him from death and honored him in a glorious way. That’s why you have put your faith and hope in God.  You obeyed the truth, and your souls were made pure. Now you sincerely love each other. But you must keep on loving with all your heart.

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