What Has Come to Your Life?

It’s Advent Season

Advent means coming – the coming of the Messiah, the long awaited one.

There’s always something coming around the bend, isn’t there?

  • Your annual scourge of the flu
  • A job transition
  • New neighbors next door
  • A new and revolutionary software upgrade
  • An 800 year flood

As you reflect on this past year, what came into your life? What welcome events made your year that much better? Which disasters appeared over your horizon?

Christmas is now here, arriving as it always does – too soon but also full of just the right hidden messages that we needed to hear every day of our lives. The Good News of Christmas, the advent it introduces every year, causes us to stop, if we have the courage, and think about the things that mean the most to us, and maybe what we ought to do about it.

“…And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

An advent of some sort or another is always appearing. This year, remember that nothing is going to arrive in your life that will surprise God or that can overwhelm his presence and power.

Even before the Good News was proclaimed in Bethlehem, God had promised his constant presence and protection.

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”  – Isaiah 43:1-2

God has not changed and his promise remains.

What has arrived in your life this past year? Perhaps it was something really big that disrupted everything you thought was so certain. Maybe your life was right on its normal track but when you think about it, it’s really going nowhere.

We celebrate the advent of the Messiah at Christmas, as a reminder that our lives in Christ are no longer the same and that nothing will ever arrive to put our lives out of his order. Christ is now with us. No matter what else arrives in the years to come, Christ will always be here with us. We celebrate this reality every Christmas.

“And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20 (The Voice)

“Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope…” – I Peter 1:3 (The Voice)

Christmas is the advent of every single day of hope that you and I have been living ever since. Be reminded this year that this hope is real because we live it out in front of the whole world each day (the good, the bad and and the ugly days). Jesus arrival, life, death and resurrection means that we can walk confidently in hope every single day.  It arrived and never left.

“The place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic, it was not a place of myths allegorised or dissected or explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true.”  ― G.K. Chesterton

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Looking The Other Way Around

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“The truth of the matter is that the whole world has already been turned upside down by the work of Jesus Christ” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

A friend from college in the midst of a medical crisis passed away this week, not so much unexpectedly, but all of a sudden. As I looked back at photos from when we were together at college, it seemed as if a thousand years had passed. And yet, it was just a moment ago when we were having so much fun and dreaming about a hopeful future.

In the eternal scheme of things, as a lyric goes from one of my favorite singers, “…you and I will simply disappear, out of sight.”  

  • Time passes us by so quickly
  • So much that we worry our lives with, doesn’t really matter
  • Perspective and context are essential to keep ourselves on track – heading in a meaningful direction (instead of lost in the woods, cussing too much)

Death sometimes comes too fast.  To some who are too young.  It catches us off guard. Things seem out of order. I posted to friends a passage from the Gospel of John as I thought about sudden departures for heaven. It’s a familiar passage, when Jesus is telling his disciples (and us) to not be afraid, there are bigger and better things waiting in eternity.

Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me. My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival.  I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together. – John 14:1-3 (The Voice)

The translation grabbed my attention.  The reason that despair (and fear and worry and anxiety and anger and frustration and calamity and uncertainty and…) can be conquered isn’t because Jesus has a magic lamp to rub and wishes come true. The reason that all of these trials of the heart and mind can be defeated is because, in perspective, they don’t matter as much as we think they do in the moment.

Our forever future has already been established. Here and now with all of the accompanying troubles, pales in comparison to the overwhelming eternity that awaits – where Jesus himself is waiting. This is the true context in which we ought to walk our steps on earth. Always on the march toward a heavenly home. One that won’t ever need a fixing up!

Last year, my Sunday School class shared the story in Acts 12 of Peter’s rescue from prison by an angelic messenger. We couldn’t help but notice the first verses of that chapter that quickly described the execution of Jesus’ brother James in the same jail. This great mystery puzzles me still. Sometimes God sends an angel to the rescue, and other times there’s an execution awaiting.

But the way I have been thinking about that story and telling it is backwards. Probably lots of things I think about are that way, what about you? We are now living on the Titanic and we know it’s going down. We are awaiting transport to safety to be secure forever.

The sad news in Acts 12 isn’t that James was left in jail to be executed. With a Christian orientation to our mindset, when we read this account, we ought to be heartbroken that poor Peter had to stay on board a little while longer and wasn’t taken to safety as quickly as his fellow disciple James.

Paul had this perspective when he wrote…

“For my life is about the Anointed and Him alone. And my death, when that comes, will mean great gain for me. – Philippians 1:21 (The Voice)

There is so much about my perspective that needs constant reorientation because of the Good News. What about you? Do you need to use your faith today to remember the eternal context and reorient your heart and mind (and mouth) back toward that accurate perspective?

I showed this quick video to my class this week – it helps keep your thinking the right way around.

Walking to Emmaus Part 4

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“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report.
They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.” 
– Luke 24: 22-24

This truly is the amazing part of the story – but for a very different reason. If these two eyewitnesses actually believe what they are reporting then why are they so sad and in retreat?  Remember that it’s possible this couple are the disciples Cleopas and his wife. She may have been at the cross and one of the women at the tomb that very morning. They recount this miraculous news with defeat written on their faces and they head back home as if the story is finished.

Maybe in their hearts they are still spectators and not participants. They have heard and maybe even seen part of the earth shaking story but they haven’t stepped out of the boat as Peter did on that stormy day.  Perhaps this adventure has all been just an intellectual exercise and they’ve dared not believe what their eyes and ears have told them.

The Good News has made no difference in their lives.

What difference has it made in your life today? Certainly it makes all the difference in your life of tomorrow, your eternal life. But what about that life you’re living today, right now? Each conversation, those little decisions, the expression you carry about on your face, what difference has it made that everything He said was really true?

Would you be the same person today, act and think the same way, if it had never happened?

At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

On the road you’re walking today, what difference has the Good News made?