We are a special people, a chosen people. God chose US to be at the forefront of this battle. Are we making Him proud? Are we giving Him the opportunity to say well done my good and faithful servant?
When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by anxiety and fear over what is happening in our world right now, I want you to stop and think about this, God chose us for this time! He didn’t choose our parents or our grandparents, He chose us! We aren’t too old or too young, we are exactly who He choose. Isaiah 46:6-13 (MSG)
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As Methodists, we believe that all three types of grace are available through communion and that, loved ones, is the reason that we have open communion. Through communion, God can convert, justify, and sanctify us with His grace. Covid has interfered with many of the ways that we experience and participate in the means of grace and has left many of us empty and dry. We need a refill. We pray, we read our bible, but communion gives us something more, it gives us something we need, a refill of grace.
There is something the travelers to Emmaus needed, especially considering they thought He was crucified and dead. It’s the same thing we need, especially in this day of Covid and the world we find ourselves in today. We have the scriptures and we read them. We have prayer and we pray. But without the presence of Christ, bible study is an empty practice devoid of grace. Without the presence of Christ, our prayers are an empty practice, as devoid of God’s grace as the prayer of the representative from Missouri this week when he ended his prayer in the name of the hindu god.
Modern scholars have pretty much decided that the star the Magi saw was an alignment of planets much like we saw right before Christmas in our own sky. Jupiter was thought of as the royal or kingly planet and many thought Saturn represented the Jews. When the Magi saw Jupiter and Saturn in alignment with another planet or two, they concluded the obvious; the new king of the Jews was about to be born. So, the Magi, who were astronomers and astrologers, saw the “star” and determined that a king (represented by Jupiter) of the Jews (represented by Saturn) had been born and headed out for Jerusalem the city of the Jews. There is much that we can learn from their journey. Matthew 2:1-12
As different and crazy as this year has been, God remains constant. His love for us is unchanging. In Genesis, He promised a redeemer to bridge the divide and make redemption possible. A Savior whose name is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. A son named Jesus. Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of trying to make everything just right, in the middle of illness, loss, and suffering, in a world that seems upside down, we can lose sight of the reason God sent His son; we can lose sight of the truth that Jesus will return. A Lessons and Carols Service is normally done in person with different readers and voices ringing out in joyful song but, like everything else, it is different this year. But, as you watch and listen to the service, don’t focus on what’s different or what’s missing. Instead, focus on our Savior Jesus who came to ensure a better life for us all. A life with no covid or cancer, no grief or pain, no riots or struggles. Focus on the eternal life that we will share with each other in the presence of God.
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If we have faith that Jesus is the Word and that He came to earth as a human to live like us and to die like us to redeem us, then we must believe that He is coming again. If we believe He is coming again, why aren’t we telling everyone about Him? Our purpose is the same as John the Baptist’s. We are to testify, be a witness, concerning that light, Jesus, so that through us, all might believe. We are here to be a witness to the true light. In Luke 2:10, the angel said, “fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to All people.” Jesus is still the good news, Jesus is still the great joy, and Jesus is coming again. Whether He becomes the good news for all people depends on us not being afraid to give out the good tidings of great joy.
I’m not sure that our lives have ever fit Advent better than they do this year. John in the wilderness preparing the way for the Lord. We’ve all been in the wilderness before, for some of us, that wilderness lasted for a short time, for other, it lasted for a season or more. But, never, in most of our lifetimes, has the entire world been in the wilderness like it is right now. Yes, there have been wars, even world wars, but for the majority of the world, the war wasn’t happening in their home town. It wasn’t happening on their doorstep, it wasn’t happening in their own home or their own body.
The definition for the word Advent, is the coming or arrival of something or someone that is important or worthy of note.
The entire world is waiting for the arrival of normalcy and after this year, normalcy is definitely something that is important and worthy of note. But, we see from this week with cases going up and up and the number of available hospital beds going down and down, and we are in the wilderness. Mark 1:1-8
In this time of chaos and confusion, in this time of different, in this time of loss – not just loss of people, but loss of normal – it can be so very easy to focus on the bad instead of the good, but just because we have to look harder for things to be thankful for, doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Paul and James both have been urging us to be different from the world and I don’t think that has ever been more essential than it is right now as we are moving into the holiday season. There’s a little word in the verses I read that changes everything: 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (NIV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. We aren’t urged to give thanks “for” all circumstances, we are told to give thanks “in” all circumstances. I read a quote this week that said, “Thankfulness, or its lack, is the thermometer by which our spiritual temperature can be gauged.”
What is your spiritual temperature?
How do we overcome our tendency to chase after personal desires more than we chase after God?
James says we must submit to God and resist the devil. Come near to God and he’ll come near to us. Humble ourselves.
In Romans 8:7, Paul told us that the sinful mind is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
We must turn our minds and then surrender ourselves, completely.
So often though, we halfheartedly surrender ourselves. We don’t turn out minds. We keep this little desire or that little want back to ourselves thinking it doesn’t hurt. But it does, because that little desire or want grows.
No, we have to surrender ourselves completely. Come back to God and He will come back to us. I asked my congregations to read the following verses often over the next days, weeks, months…I ask anyone who wants a closer relationship with God to do the same.
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart (Jer. 24:7).
I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them (Jer. 32:39).
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezek. 11:19).
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezek. 36:26–27).James 4:1-17
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