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!

Confessions and Places of Spiritual Growth

Today I got to sit and talk with a pastor for a good hour and a half. In this talk there were several themes that consistently came up that have been consistent with what I have learned over field work.

  1. Do not put God in a box.
  2. Listen for God’s voice
  3. Take Him seriously.
  4. Be in constant communication with Him
  5. Look for Him in daily life

Looking at these themes, I have to say that I have been doing a fairly poor job at these. I have put God in a box by saying that God does not do the things that He has done in the past because I have not experienced it. I have not been listening for my shepherds voice. I have only taken God seriously at certain times and other times I have blown Him off. I have not spent enough time with Him in prayer. And I have hardly ever looked for His work in my life and in the lives of others daily. These have all been areas of constant themes that I have found throughout my experiences at field work, and these are all areas where I feel as though I have grown some, but more growth I feel is coming.

Since last fall I have asked for God’s forgiveness and guidance to grow in Him. Surely enough He has answered my prayers. Before I was comfortable working in my power, on my own reason and strength to make the Gospel known. This is so easy for me to do in academia where we try to make God’s power into a science and try to comprehend Him. What I have noticed as change in my life is that I have gotten a little more relaxed in not worrying how to share the Gospel and teach it.

Very recently I have been more intentional in trying to quiet myself and listen for God’s voice. To pay attention to what He desires. To let him lead me to do His work. Along with this comes the practice of obedience. And from all of this comes the practice of taking God seriously. It is something that I have been working on and have since improved, but it is something will always require intentional focus due to my sinful nature.

Since last fall I have found myself more intentional about prayer and the power of it. Luke 11 is now one of my favorite chapters in the entire New Testament. Prayer is something that is truly a gift from God and if you have not taken full advantage of it I encourage you to pray to God because He does answer your prayers. Just as a small example of God answering prayer, I experienced something last summer while I was working at Camp Omega. I used my cell phone as my alarm clock everyday at camp. However, there were a couple of times where my cell phone was going to die and I did not have a charger or a place to charge my phone so that the alarm could be used. Instead, I prayed for God to wake me up at the appropriate time. The first time I prayed this prayer, I instantly woke up precisely at the time that I would normally set my alarm. Then something even more miraculous happened in the second to last week of camp when I was a counselor in the tepees. For two straight days my phone was dead and I was terribly concerned about oversleeping. On both of those days and nights I prayed. On both mornings, there was the most annoying crow that crowed at precisely the time I was supposed and meaning to wake up. Needless to say, the crow woke me up on both days and on those days I was more energetic on those days than ever before. It is truly something only God could do!

The last thing that I have grown in is looking for God in my daily life. Needless to say I still go days where I do not look for His work in my life and others around me, but that does not mean that He is not working. However, today more than ever, I am more intentional to look for God in daily life. I am looking forward to what great things He is planning to do in others around me and in my life as well. All glory and honor are His, now and forever!

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

“Where is your faith?”

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger.

The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?”

The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”

When the disciples woke Jesus up they were certain that they were going to drown. In fact it was not until the boat started filling with water did they even think about waking Jesus up. When they woke Him up they were afraid and certain of the fact that they were going to die. Today, I look at this text and I think why? Why were they certain that they were going to drown? Afterall they are with Jesus. There is nothing better then being with Jesus. I think that and I ask myself why were the disciples so stupid? It is funny to think that I ask the same question that Jesus asks His disciples, but he phrased it differently. Where is your faith? Why do you not think that I am not in control of this world? Why do you not put your trust, your confidence, in me to get you through the storm?

The thing is that the disciples did not rreally know who Jesus was.

“Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”

They did not know that they were with the Messiah! They did not know that they were with God himself. Even after all the miracles that they had witnessed, they still did not know who Jesus truly was. Therefore Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith?

It almost seems as if Jesus is asking that question to us today. “Where is your faith?” So often we are faced with storms in this life. Just like the disciples I tend to try to handle my sinking ship on my own power and strength. It is not until I come to the point of realizing that I am going to drown that I turn to Jesus and ask Him to protect me from the rough time in my life. The awesome thing is that he always comes through, even in ways I do not quite expect. It is at that point that I get to experience His peace. Then I am humbled and come to Him begging for forgiveness for not trusting Him and putting Him fist in my life. And as He promises, He forgives me.

“Where is your faith?” My trust rest in Jesus. The one who controls the winds and the seas and all of creation. The one who died for my sin. The One who rose for my sin. The One who has claimed me as His and the One who guides me throughout my life every step of the way.

Everyone is a Nerd

So I am just going to be honest with you all, I am a complete nerd! I was having a conversation with a friend and a security guard (yes a security guard) yesterday on video games. The security guard was saying that he didn’t want to share what video games he played because then my friend and I would think he would be a complete nerd. So naturally, we had to ask him what game he was referring to and reaffirm to him that we would not think that he was not any more of a nerd than what we already thought of him. Turns out it was some morbid online game where you could collect ears of other gamers that you killed. He said he didn’t like it because one it was too violent and everyone on their was some kind of video game nerd. He then stated that when they got killed they would then harass you and say some very inappropriate things that are very graphic and should probably not be repeated, especially on this blog.

This whole topic got me thinking that we all have something we are completely nerd out about. For some people its video games. For the ones who never leave the gym and just stand, flex, and look at themselves in the mirror it is working out and body image. For vegetarians it is not eating meat (which reminds me I have a funny vegetarian story for another post some day). For those jocks in high school it is knowing the careers of all the professional athletes within their sport. Everyone has something that they are nerdy about.

As for me, I have a couple of things that I am nerdy about. One thing is the news. I absolutely LOVE (L O V E) the news. Especially national and international news. I do not turn on the news to see who murdered who today. I turn on the news to find out what is going on in the world. If there is a mass murderer on the loose then that is something noteworthy and should be brought to light or if someone did not get due process that is something that should be distributed on the news. But the news is so that people are informed about the world and the impact it has on their life. The GOOD as well as the bad. That is the important stuff that every news network should be broadcasting. Not just to attract an audience because it is not a television show. It’s the news.

The second thing that I am completely nerdy about is history. I really enjoy politics and history of warfare. I think it is fun to look back on the history, on the politics and view the situations that caused things to happen. A lot of times though, I feel like in our history classes we focus a lot on the things that went wrong and what caused them (such as the World Wars and the Great Depression) and we don’t spend a lot of time looking at what was successful like what caused the Roaring 20s, and why the civil rights movement was successfully won. Those should be just as important to study and learn from. Normally in text books these topics are pretty much only mentioned by giving them one or two paragraphs, but they are not seriously studied giving someone a better understanding of what was occurring at the time, who was involved and their background, etc.

One other thing that I am ashamed to admit to being nerd out on are alien conspiracy theories. I do not believe them in the slightest, but they are intriguing. When I shared this with the security guard he said that watching sci-fi and letting his imagination go wild is crazy enough. He didn’t even want to conceive the idea of having a conspiracy theory on aliens mix with his imagination because that would make him go insane! Quite frankly, I can’t blame. With the stuff that I had (and for lack of a better word) studied up on it has made my imagination go wild. And honestly I think that is why I find it interesting. It is so far-fetched that anything could be a possibility.

However, the one thing I have always been nerdy about since I was a child has been the Bible and ministry. I can not get enough from God’s word. It is something that is constant. It is true. It is life changing! To hear from God the story of Jesus coming to Earth to die on the cross to forgive our sins. And that he resurrected in three days is something that once one has been brought to know, it does not easy to leave that faith because you are God’s child. You are in his hand. He leads your life. My life. I find the Bible as the most interesting book ever because it has news and it has history (no aliens – don’t listen to the history channel), but the most important thing that it has is the truth of what God has done to fix a mess that we created through His son Jesus. That is life changing.

When I was a child I had a good chunk of the Bible accounts (notice how I always use the word account – not stories – because stories imply some fiction. Account implies that it is factual and true) memorized and I knew them well. As I grew older I didn’t use them as much and they started to fade away in detail from memory. Since college a lot of those details have been brought back into my Biblical knowledge. And there is still a thirst in me today to want to learn more. One thing I would like to buy is a chronological Bible where the books and chapters are in their proper order and the whole Bible can be read as a narrative from beginning to end (put that on my wish list).

Another thing I did often as a child was play “pastor.” I had a large, button down, yellow shirt that my dad gave me to play with and used it as a robe. Then I used the fireplace as the altar. I was like 3 to 5 years old when I did this. I am pretty sure my parents have a video of me playing “pastor” somewhere in the house.

Anyways my point being is that we are all nerds in some way shape or form and there is always something we are nerdy about. I apologize for the scatter-brainness, but that is just how I roll. Thanks for reading this novel!