Waiting to Rejoice!

I just came back from a chapel service this evening and we appropriately sang O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. It got me thinking about the season of Advent, of which we are in, and the coming of Christ again to take His people home.

As a devotional for the next 14 days, I plan on going verse by verse of the hymn and include “The Great ‘O’ Antiphons” and just write thoughts and reflections of each verse. One verse a day.

Let’s get started.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”

What a packed verse! Where to begin? I guess with the Bible. (The Bible is always a good place to start). Since Genesis chapter 3 we received a promise from God that he would take care of the issue that we as human beings started, which is the issue of sin. Paradise was lost and we, as people, by our own power could not and will not ever reclaim it. We were captive to sin. Mourning in exile from God.

Likewise, God promises that the offspring that he once promised from Genesis 3 would be a descendant of Abraham and his wife Sara. This child was Isaac. And from Isaac, Jacob, who was named Israel by God. Israel had 12 sons, which consisted of the 12 tribes of Israel and they were held in captivity in Egypt. They were waiting for the Messiah to come.

And He did. He was named Emmanuel, God with us. The God that we were in exile from came and walked among us as one of us. Born from the house of Judah, as a descendant of David. As a king! To pay a ransom, which costs him his life, for Israel (the nation) first, which was under occupation by Rome. Then the news of this ransom was widespread and for the Gentiles (all other nations) as well, because all the nations would be blessed through the descendant of Abraham and Sara.

And since God’s Son, Jesus, was born, died and risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, he has made His church the new Israel. They are His chosen people who have faith in him. They are Christians. Christ followers. And they are foreigners in a land that they do not know because their kingdom is where Christ is. They are captive to this world of sin, evil, and death waiting for Christ to return to take them home! We eagerly wait this Advent season for the coming of our King! And once He comes and is with them there will be rejoicing!

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Scatterbrained Contentment

Today is the last day. After a year of being in Urbana, IL it is now time to leave. There is a whole range of emotions that I have been experiencing the last couple days, but today and tomorrow morning they will climax as my final hours (25 hours to be exact) in service here comes to a close.

Over the past year I have learned a number a lessons. I even learned a few things about myself. A few things immediately come to mind when I start reflecting on such things: organization, the importance of discipleship, finding volunteers, how a congregation operates in reality, and I learned that I am not quite as introverted as I thought I was just to name a few. But I will not spend much time in this post on these learning’s. Instead, I’d rather spend a little more time on contentment.

I was writing another post on contentment, but decided not to post it because it didn’t seem appropriate. But after having a brief discussion with Pastor yesterday I think maybe I can discuss this learning more clearly. A simple definition of contentment can be defined as being ok with the blessings that God has placed in our lives. It is 9th and 10th commandment stuff. Without getting too personal (even though I hinted at this already earlier in this post and in others) this past year has been one of the greatest blessed experiences and challenging on a spiritual and emotional level.

The question I have been asking has been “Is God’s blessing’s enough for our lives?” Are the blessings that you received from God enough for us to make it through the day? The answer is absolutely yes, but there were a number of times this year where I honestly questioned that. There were a number of times where I felt as though I did not have what I felt I needed from God. Anyone who has been a VBS director, I hope, would understand this! But he knows what we need. He is far wiser than I am. And it is only by his power that the things that I have and the things that I’d like to see done get done.

But sin makes it feel as though God is not blessing enough. I guess as Pastor and I discussed yesterday (and I am using a very broad brush here) we can always do more. We should recognize this. But there is no limit saying that we have to do a certain amount of things. We are called to work. And to persevere. To fight the good fight. God is the one who uses the good and bad things we do to forward his kingdom. He is the one with that power. Still there is that question that I ask myself, did I do enough? Did I work hard enough? What could I have done differently to get a better result? How dumb am I to think and ask these things?! For it is not me at work, but the Spirit at work through me. God is the one that get’s His work done. And with that assurance it is always enough. I can always go on one more visitation. Or plan just one more event. Or talk to one more person and witness to them. But it is still God that is the one who works and blesses such things.

There are even things in personal life that one can look at and not be content with what God has given. Sometimes that can lead to depression, anger, and fear as a result of this sin. But once again the good news is that God always gives us enough to make it through. He has certainly given us more than enough in Christ. What more do we really need? This is because in Christ there is hope. And because there is hope, we can persevere and not lose faith. In Christ, we can always be content because that is all we really need.

Yesterday, I and many others said goodbye to a friend who passed on in the faith. Anyone who knew him, knew that he did not complain about anything. He (at least showed) contentment in all things and at all times. And it was all because of his faith in Christ because Christ is all we really need.

So good-bye friend. And I will see you once again one day soon.

Good Bye Sour Cream – Rejoice!

There are many things that I absolutely hate. One of them is sour cream. If I take a bite of sour cream it makes me gag and I will inevitably spit it back out. It does not matter if it is mixed in well in a dish, I will taste it and more than likely spit it out. I absolutely hate sour cream.

But the other thing that I hate more than sour cream is good byes. Especially when it’s toward people who you care about. And the thing with good byes is that it is truly a good-bye, not see you later because when someone leaves they are not able to be there through thick and thin, through the good and the bad. It is good-bye so that others can move on and make connections with others that are there immediately around them. This does not mean that you stop caring or do not talk every once in a while, but it is a recognition that the relationship that you once had with that person is not the same as it was before.

Over the past week and during this coming week I am going to say good bye to many people who I truly care about. My time on my internship is coming to a quick close. I have gotten an amazing opportunity to meet a number of great people both where I served and out in the community. However, it is time to start saying good byes even though it is something that I would normally try to avoid doing like eating sour cream.

But at the same time there is an exciting future ahead for all of us. I know for myself, the next year is going to raise a number of questions. I am expecting that within the next two or three weeks many, if not all, of those questions that I have will be answered. And as for those who I leave this week can also take assurance in God’s promise in that He knows what it is that they need. ” “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6).

Therefore, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). There is a bright future for those who have put their trust and confidence in Christ Jesus. He is indeed coming again to take those who have been saved through him, by faith, to be with him for all eternity where we will no longer have to say good-bye or farewell, but where we get to live together forever. And hopefully with no sour cream!

Thought for the Night

So as I am sitting here chatting with an old friend, I have come to the realization that sometimes I even surprise myself in the way I react to things. Sometimes the reaction is good and right, sometimes the reaction is COMPLETELY not what it should be, and still sometimes my reaction is straight up not what you would expect from me (or I from myself). I won’t get into details because it really just leaves me somewhat embarrassed, but the hilarious reactions to where you can picture your own face while it is happening and you would never expect yourself to react like that in a particular situation is just down right priceless and brightens my mood! So therefore I recommend that you take some time to laugh at yourself from something you did today, yesterday, last week, or last year or from some other time in your life. Have a good night!

Goodness Shown

So our church is one month away from going on a service trip to Washington D.C. with EPIC Ministries sponsoring the trip. The theme verse for EPIC is based off of Galatians 6:9-10

Do not grow weary in doing good for t the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. Therefore, as you have opportunity, do good to all people beginning with the family of believers.

We have been asked to memorize this verse as it will be the theme of our week of service. This post will be my initial reflections on this verse.

Throughout the entire book of Galatians the freedom of a Christian is a consistent theme. This is a result of the Gospel of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the law on our behalf. In this we get to live life for God. We get to live a life that says, “I am forgiven.” We live a life that says that we are made righteous. We are sanctified. This is all done by faith. Not by our works.

This is apparent by the Galatians being oppressed by Jewish teachers who were saying that they must obey the full law of Moses, including the law of the sign of the old covenant, which is circumcision. Paul spends the whole letter opposing this view of legalism and contrasts it with the freedom of the Gospel, where the legalism of the law has no power over the Christian. The Christian is free.

So what then does Christian freedom look like? Love. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind,” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These commands are what the law of Christ is. We are free to show that mercy to others. That mercy is indeed love for one another, which is indeed loving God, for Christ said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” This freedom to please Him was won for us on the cross, where the Law of Moses, which leaves us condemned, was fulfilled for us. We do not point to our brothers and sisters and say, “You must do this.” Instead, we show mercy to others.

This is where I will come back to Galatians 6:9-10 again. “Do not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. Therefore, as you have opportunity, to do good to all people beginning with the family of believers.”

The first part of this verse is, “Do not grow weary in doing good.” What is weariness? Dictionary.com defines weary as, “physically or mentally exhausted by hard work, exertion, strain, etc.; fatigued; tired.” How does weariness creep into our lives as Christians? Well, it can come in a number of ways, namely when others sin against us, or when we take personal offense to others actions. Maybe when we look around and do not see God answering our prayers the way we want them answered. Sometimes, that weariness creeps in when we sin and wrong others and our shame and our guilt overwhelms us and we cannot find the strength to do good because we are so focused on our failures. All these examples are way for Satan to come in and harass us, by placing doubts, guilt, and shame in our face. And these things start to take a toll because those attacks by Satan become consistent and often distracting us from the cross of Christ and his forgiveness.

The second part of that opening phrase in this passage is the part on goodness. One must ask ourselves, what is good? Good is the effects of the Gospel. Goodness is what the Gospel compels the Christian to do because we have been shown that goodness. That goodness is mercy. It is love. It is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (the Fruits of the Spirit). It is the act of restoring our brothers and sisters, reminding them that they are indeed forgiven by Christ. Goodness is when we take care of others needs and share each others burdens. But the central piece to all of this is where the desire to do good comes from. Paul warns the churches in Galatia about this in verse 7-8 saying, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.” However, “The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” When our actions are of the Spirit, God blesses those actions to further His kingdom for He is holy and just and merciful. Therefore, let us not become weary in doing good so that the kingdom of God may be plentiful and God be glorified.

This is all based on an encouraging note of perseverance when Paul says, “If you do not give up.” Here, we see that Paul does not say that weariness will not happen in the Christian life, but even despite our weariness and struggle God is able to use the good that we do to our neighbor for His glory. As Christians we will become weary, and when we do we repent, and are reminded of the cross of Christ and press on do good. It’s not always easy, but the Christian life never is.

“Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” All people need the goodness that has been shown to us because we live in such a fallen world. When that goodness is shown to others, a testimony takes place. And that testimony is the death of Christ for us. The goodness shown can open doors of opportunity to witness to all people, which the Holy Spirit will be active in bringing that person to faith or strengthening that faith, but that is something that God does, of which we have no control over. However, the goodness that we do can be shown. And this goodness is especially to be shown with the church, the family of believers. When a believer is shown that goodness it is empowering and restoring to the believer which gives that believer the courage to do good to others. It keeps the believer from becoming weary. It allows for the whole body of believers to continue doing good instead of just a few. This is why it is important for Christians to go to church because we receive that goodness through our fellowship with others, through the word, and through the Sacrament of the Alar. Therefore, I encourage every reader to continue doing good that has been shown to you through Christ.