What are we waiting for in Advent?

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What are we waiting for in Advent?

Please read Amos 5: 18-27

Advent has for long been associated with waiting. We have been talking about waiting for the past one week or so. But what exactly do we wait for this Advent season? What does Advent promise us that we are looking forward to?

I recently read something on the Incarnation or the Word made flesh that helps clarify what we should be waiting for:

“The Word that took root in the darkness of Mary’s womb, that took flesh and walked around in this world, that emerged not only in the laboring of a woman but also in the laboring of generations to follow, the ancient Word that springs forth anew—this Word seeks to dwell deeply in us, to be born into the world through us in this and every season.” –Jan Richardson, “The Luminous Word: Living the Advent Hours”.

The Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah, the Redeemer, who would deliver them from the Roman Empire, establish the government of their own people, and fulfill the promises received through their prophets. However, most of us today live in a free world and aren’t expecting the Messiah. In fact, we do have the living Messiah with us now. However, what the world is waiting to see is that the Messiah, the Word who became flesh would dwell deep inside us. By the indwelling of the Word in us, let a new, transformed life may emerge. May Christlike life be born in and through us this Advent so that the world around us may be amazed to see the mighty work of God in each one of our lives.

The Kingdom that the Word came to inaugurate must now be expanded through you and me. What Prophet Amos imagined must now be fulfilled through our actions:

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5: 24 ESV).

What Prophet Isaiah wished for must become a reality in our lives:

“Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:18 ESV).

Furthermore, could we say that Isaiah’s prayer be answered now in our days when,

“The LORD’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field.” (Isaiah 32: 16 NIV).

Will we work together to make that highway a reality which Prophet Isaiah dreamed of:

“And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray” (Isaiah 35: 8 ESV).

Until these promises are fulfilled, we wait in vain. We go through the motion and routines of Advent and Christmas celebration without paying attention to what we’re expecting?

Come Lord Jesus!

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Advent: So the Lord waits for you!

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Advent: So the Lord waits for you!

Please read Isaiah 30

For a couple of days now, we have stressed on the importance of waiting upon the Lord. Today, a particular verse in Isaiah grabbed my attention. There is a reason the Bible stresses so much on the theme of waiting upon the Lord and waiting for him. Isaiah 30: 18 points it out for us when he says,

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;

    therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.

For the Lord is a God of justice;

    blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18 NRSV).

The New Living Translation is even more emphatic by adding the word “must”:

 “So the Lord must wait for you to come to him

    so he can show you his love and compassion.

For the Lord is a faithful God.

    Blessed are those who wait for his help” (Isaiah 30:18 NLT)

I agree with most of you who wince when you hear one more exhortation on waiting upon the Lord, wondering how long? You grouse thinking why it is you who is always left waiting for the Lord and then nothing happens. Trust me, I have felt the same way many a times. I have often wondered why I am the only one left waiting when everyone else around me get ahead and finds what they have wanted. Why only my prayers are not answered when everyone else rejoices over things they have not even prayed about. So, today, if you’re in the mood of complaining, I want to urge you to listen to the words of Prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah makes it so clear that rather than me waiting or even before I wait, it is the Lord himself who is waiting for me. Even before you could learn to wait upon the Lord and for the Lord, the Lord himself is the one who waits for us; rather, “the Lord must wait for you to come to him.” The Lord waits so that he could be gracious to us. The Lord waits for the sinners to return to him. The Lord waits for us to repent from our sins so that he could forgive us. The Lord waits to show his love for us…to take us in his loving arms to comfort us. The Lord waits patiently to show… nay to shower his unlimited grace upon us. It is one of the attributes of a kind, loving, long-suffering God to even wait for the sinner to repent and turn to him and find grace. The Lord waits for the sinner until s/he decides to come near him seeking his love and forgiveness.

So, my waiting upon the Lord is never in vain. Therefore, instead of being grouchy today, will you instead be grateful that we have a God who waits for us! Will you come to him who must wait for you to show his love and compassion as long as you have the opportunity? Will you take advantage of the offer of a God who has waited for you to come to him and receive this Advent season the blessings he has stored for you? In doing so, will you be one of those who is called “blessed” just because you wait for God’s help as he waits to bless you!

May the Lord draw us closer to him.

Advent: Wait for the Lord!

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Advent: Wait for the Lord

Please read: Psalm 27

We’ve seen that Advent is a season for waiting upon the Lord and it comes with its perks. Today, my attention was drawn to Psalm 27. It’s a psalm of David. In the last verses (13-14) of this psalm, the Psalmist declares,

“I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord 

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (NIV)

Obviously, not everything was alright in the days of David. Even when he was the king, David had to fight a lot of wars, and attend to various challenges to his kingdom and to his kingship. There were internal conflicts and external threats to the kingdom. Verse 2 makes this clear that he had to deal with enemies. Verse 3 makes it clear that he even feared his own armies besieging him. Verse 5 shows that he had or feared he would face days of trouble, which are multiplied in verse 12 where David’s apprehensions and anxieties come to the fore.

However, what’s most encouraging is David’s confidence in the Lord and the invincible attitude he displays in the midst of adversity and hopelessness. This comes out clearly in the last two verses cited above where David declares that he chooses to remain confident of this that he will see the goodness of the Lord. Even though the clouds of doubt and hopeless situation may hide the unchanging goodness of the Lord from him, his faith is firm that one day the clouds will disappear and God’s goodness will be clear as day. What is more, David says it will be here and now even during his own lifetime. But in order for this to realized, one must “wait for the Lord”. Not just waiting upon the Lord for him to act on our behalf and to fulfill his promises, but wait for the Lord means not to go ahead of the Lord. Waiting for the Lord means to live in full confidence that God is alive…that he is still on his throne…that God is good…that God is still interested in us…that God still wants the best for us…and that God will act for us. It also means that we don’t want to rush God as and when we want him to act, but that we let God be God, for he knows the best timing for us. Even as we continue to wait and trust, David also encourages us to be strong in the Lord and to take heat or be courageous while we wait for the Lord to act.

Our days are not much different from the days of David. Just a glance at the daily newspaper or hearing the news on the television and we know what kind of days we all are living in. We’re prone to lose hope and feel helpless. If you’re in that situation, please take courage from David’s psalm and wait for him with renewed strength and hope for that’s the message of the Advent season.

Come Lord Jesus!

Advent: Wait and trust in God’s timing

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Advent: Wait and trust in God’s timing
Please read Luke 24: 44-53

Waiting upon the Lord is what the Hebrews did for centuries before the coming of the Messiah. God also rewards those who wait upon him with much strength and vigor. Nevertheless, waiting upon the Lord can be one of the hardest things for you and me. During this Advent season, we are reminded that we, too, as believers are to wait upon the Lord until Jesus Christ returns back to this world. In fact, with the promise of his return, Jesus Christ asked his followers to wait and be patient. Even as the disciples waited, they were eager to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 20-28) given by their Lord just before his ascension into heaven. However, even before going out to fulfill the Great Commission, the Lord asked his disciples to wait: “And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24: 49).

Now, waiting on the Lord has quite a few benefits for us. Waiting helps build up our complete trust in God. To wait is to trust God and to take his Word and his promises at face value. It means we trust that God is doing and will do what he has promised in his Word as well as his individual promises to you and me. This Advent, make some time to list all the promises you may have received from God in the past. Make a clear list and then pray over it. Once again, claim each of those promises and patiently trust God to fulfill them in your life.

Waiting on the Lord actually helps take the burden and stress off of our shoulders because it proves that God is in control and he is still in charge. If I know that I am not in charge of my life, it becomes really quite liberating. Try this Advent season to lay your life, plans, and your future at the feet of God and make him in charge. You will be free to live! And you will love the fact that you are no longer in charge—you are not God; rather God is in charge.

Waiting on the Lord is also helpful in that it releases us from the unnecessary stress of predicting the exact dates and times of the Second Coming of Christ. We can never get it right, because only God knows about the perfect timing for his coming. If I am not God, why should I even bother about predicting when it’s the ripe time for Christ’s return? Thus, waiting means I learn to trust in God’s perfect timing for all decisions in my life and even for the return of Christ. It teaches me that God’s timing is the best.

May the Lord help each one of us to learn to patiently wait for the Lord, to trust him that he is in control, and to trust in his perfect timing.
Come Lord Jesus!

Advent: Those who wait shall renew their strength

waitingAdvent: Those who wait shall renew their strength

Please read Isaiah 40: 9-31

As I wrote yesterday, Advent characterizes patiently waiting for the Lord. The Israelites had to wait for a very long period of 400 years after the last prophet spoke to them. The prophets played a key role in the lives of Hebrews. In fact, the prophets were one of the three religious institutions in the Old Testament; the other two being the priests and the kings. The prophets, therefore, played a pivotal role in building anticipation for the Advent of the coming Messiah—Jesus Christ. In times of trouble, darkness, silence, and hopelessness, the prophets brought hope and encouragement to the people of God. The prophets keenly observed the world around them and declared what was wrong with it. They also preached that a better world was needed. In order for a better world, the prophets proclaimed, they needed a better King who would act justly and establish justice. The prophets also preached that people, who contributed to making the world a corrupt and unjust world, needed to repent and turn from their sinful ways. Only when the people repented and accepted the new order that the Messiah brings in will they be able to usher in a new and better world.

The Prophet Isaiah in particular announced that anticipating all this to happen in our world is a matter of patiently waiting. That’s why he announces that there’s even a huge incentive for those who chose to wait upon the Lord:

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40: 31 ESV).

Notice here that Isaiah doesn’t mean we remain idle as wait upon the Lord to come back as the ruling King of his Kingdom on earth. To wait is not that we just mark our time. Rather, it’s to be active on his behalf for the kingdom, working towards its fulfillment in the here and now. That’s why he uses three verbs in the above verse: we shall “mount up… run…walk…” That provides a vivid picture of what we should be doing as we wait upon the Lord. Isaiah says the Lord knows when we wait upon him. He knows that as human beings it’s against our nature to wait. He knows that we will become weary and worn out through waiting and trusting upon God. Therefore, he has also provided for an incentive, i.e., he will renew our strength when we become weary of waiting. The incentive to renew our strength is clearly for the purpose of getting more involved in his Kingdom as the three verbs describe for us. God knows that we’re not made to be sitting apathetic but to engage with the world. Therefore, he’s also willing to supply us the needed strength, through the Holy Spirit, to mount up like eagles, to soar higher, to run faster, and to walk with sprint in our feet, to do his will on earth as it’s done in heaven!

Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Advent : A time to wait upon the Lord

waiting

Advent : A time to wait upon the Lord
Please read Isaiah 64: 1-9

Christmas is a time of so much rush and busyness for most believers that there are just not enough hours in a day and days in a month to accomplish all we are supposed to do for Christmas. The West has so much commercialized Christmas that we often forget what it is all about—the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, it’s high time for us that we take Advent, the holy season preceding the birth of Christ, as a time when we wait upon the Lord instead of rushing to do things for Christmas. Remember, the Israelites were sent several prophets with a clear message about the coming Messiah. But then, after the last Prophet Malachi put his pen down, there ensued a period of complete silence. It was a period of silence for 400 long years. A period that some have also called the darkest period in the history of Israel. It’s rightly called the darkest period because God was the quietest during this long time. The Israelites were used to hearing the Word of God proclaimed through the Prophets as the writer of Hebrews says: “God, at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews1:1). But after Malachi, the prophecies ceased and there was no voice of God until John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.
So Advent is a good time to begin instilling some stillness into our days in a very busy world. It’s a time to patiently wait for the Messiah to show up in our lives and transform us into his image and likeness. Prophet Isaiah reminds us in 64: 4,

“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.”

The biblical God unlike other gods has attributes like patience, compassion, and long-suffering. Therefore, he’s also eager in acting on behalf of those would wait for him. I know from personal experience that waiting is not easy. I’m an impatient man and I don’t like waiting for anything. However, God wants us to wait. Advent teaches us to wait because waiting means that I continue to believe and trust in God when all others have given up. When others are no longer hoping for God to show up, waiting means I depend on God’s timing rather than my own timing. Waiting teaches us to believe in the here and now and to get involved in expanding the Kingdom of God instead of idly sitting around and hoping for the rapture to take us away from this world.

I really hope and pray that this Advent season, you will slow down and draw near to God to patiently learn to wait upon him. Christmases will come and go, what is more important is learn to wait upon the Lord and to learn to trust in him and in his perfect timing.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.

Advent: An opportunity to Evangelize

Advent : An opportunity to evangelize
Please read Mark 13: 1-10

Mark chapter 13 is often called the “Olivet Discourse” as Jesus taught this to his very close disciples at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. During his last week in Jerusalem, Jesus appears to have spent most of his time in and around the Temple…teaching, preaching, observing, and praying for the peace of Jerusalem. His disciples called Jesus’ attention to the grandiose Temple building which indeed was magnificent in those days. To this Jesus responded with a startling prophecy that the Temple will be completely destroyed (this was fulfilled in AD 70 under Roman warrior and future emperor Titus). Jesus’ statement led the disciples to ask of Jesus as to when this would happen and what would be the signs before it’s fulfilled. The Olivet discourse is Jesus’ response to this query.

old mapWhat pops out to me is Jesus’ statement in Mark 13: 10: “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” The parallel passage in Matthew 24:14 puts it even more emphatically: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Like Jesus’ disciples, we too could have a misplaced concern about the Second Advent, the return of Jesus Christ and preoccupation with the signs and times of his coming. The disciples wanted to know the time and the signs. And down through the centuries, some followers of Jesus have indulged in speculating the exact dates for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus rebukes this tendency by calling their attention to the mission for which he had come to this earth, i.e., the proclamation of the good of news of the Kingdom of God. To counter this tendency, Jesus categorically told the disciples that before the end comes, the church’s mission should be the evangelization of the world — taking the gospel to all people groups everywhere. What he meant by it is that the time between his ascension and his return as the ruling King is not simply a time of suffering and persecution of the church but also an opportunity to share the grace of God and proclaim the good news throughout the earth to fulfill the prophecy of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 49:6:

He says:
“It is too small a thing for you
to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Therefore, as followers of Christ, let’s spend our time, energy, and resources wisely with the sole aim of fulfilling the command of our Lord Jesus Christ that the gospel of the Kingdom is preached on earth and, then, the end will come and not before that!

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

Advent brings hope, justice, and righteousness

hope1Advent brings hope, justice, and righteousness
Please read Isaiah 61.

In the above passage, the one whom God has anointed and sent is not identified. Yes, it’s primarily the prophet’s voice and it is Prophet Isiah’s mission that is described in these verses; however, since these are prophetic words, they have more than one fulfillment. Jesus Christ applied them to himself in his Nazareth Manifesto at the inauguration of his earthly ministry (Luke 4: 14-21). In this powerful manifesto Jesus outlines his mission as the long expected Messiah.

Jesus Christ has the required anointing of the Holy Spirit, power, and authority of God to accomplish this mission on which he has been sent to this earth. As a matter of fact, there has been no one else in the history who has either claimed this manifesto to be his/her mission or who had what it takes to accomplish this divine task. Only God’s appointed and God’s anointed can complete it.

Next, we notice that that the Anointed One is sent to bring hope. To a people in Israel who lived in hopelessness and in ruins both physical and spiritual, Jesus Christ brings the good news instead of condemnation. Noteworthy is the fact that this good news of hope is for the oppressed, to the ones whose hearts are crushed, to the captives, the imprisoned and to all who mourn. Contrary to the common belief, these people were in this state not because of their own fault. Rather, they were made to live in this situation because of historic and systematic exploitation and oppression. It’s not stated in the above verses, however, in order to reach those persons and deliver them, the Messiah must, of necessity, confront the perpetrators and sources of repression, marginalization, hopelessness and despair. In fact, the message of good news is actually bad news for the oppressors. The mission of the Messiah is to actually reverse the circumstances and effect a transformation in the identity and activity of the oppressed. In bringing the good news to the oppressed, the Anointed One also brings healing to the broken hearts, liberty for the captives, or release to those who are imprisoned by the system. If you observe closely, Jesus Christ was using the terminology of the Jubilee Year (see Leviticus 25). In doing so, the Messiah makes it clear that the liberty proclaimed is intended to be made permanent in new social and economic order and relationships that he has come to establish in and through the Kingdom of God. God’s anointed is also “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.” This is assurance that God has chosen to act with abundant “favor” and mercy towards those who are oppressed and marginalized and to judge and defeat those who would harm them. So, this Advent, we’re reminded that the coming of the Messiah will replace the dull spirits with mantles of praise. We’re reminded that the Messiah is for the humiliated, fragmented, dispirited and exploited people and he’s working to rebuild the world as a city where righteousness and justice flourish. We’re reminded that a new future is possible because God promises to be in “everlasting covenant with them” (Isaiah 61: 8). He’ll cloth us with the robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61: 9-10) and the city where hopelessness had taken root will, by God’s spirit and by God’s blessing, sprout righteousness and praise!
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

Advent Hope

hope

Advent hope
Please read Romans 15: 8-13

Along with anticipation, Advent in the Scriptures personifies hope! As believers we need hope today more than ever as we live in very difficult times. The memory of what happened in Ferguson, USA, was difficult to erase from our memories, and it happened again…. I was so disturbed today as I read the news of another white cop not indicted by the local grand-jury for the brutal lynching of a Black man. He was father of six young children. It happened in July 2014 in broad day light on a street in New York while a bystander recorded it live on his cellphone camera. Events such as these and the images of heavily armed police crushing peaceful protesters with all their might continue to haunt us as we prepare to celebrate Christmas in a few days. What could Advent mean for us in such times as we live in today?
To a heart full of angst and anxiety, the Scripture spoke from Romans 15: 8-13. To be honest, I don’t really see or recognize hope when we look around us today. I’m pretty sure; many of you feel the same. This may lead us to feel sad, angry, and frustrated. However, my friends, this is alright to go into Advent with these very feelings that you and I have. This way, we actually could find our kinship with the Hebrews who received the good news of the coming Messiah. The Jewish people not only anticipated, but literally cried out for the Redeemer to come and deliver them and make things alright in their world. This hope of the coming Messiah would bring hope not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles…for the whole world. As the prophet proclaimed (Romans 15: 12; cf. Isaiah 11: 10 ESV)

“And again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.’”

It is this hope that gives me excitement and joy as I’m a Gentile like most of you are. I want us to be people of hope like the Jews before Jesus’ time. Life wasn’t easy for them either. Yet, as they read their Scriptures, they were filled with hopefulness and hoped in the coming Messiah against all odds. Let’s continue to hope for what we do not see yet. Let’s hope for the Second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s hope for the Kingdom of God to be fully realized. Let’s all hope for another prophecy of Prophet Isaiah (11:6 ESV) to become a reality in the Kingdom of God:

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.”

Let me close with a prayer for us, in the words of Apostle Paul: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 ESV).

Advent Anticipation

Dec 2, 2014.

Please read Luke chapter 2.

The Advent is about anticipation of the coming Messiah, the anointed Redeemer. Since the Old Testament prophets announced time and again the coming of the Messiah, the Jewish people looked forward to their Savior with great anticipation. In the birth narrative of evangelist Luke, soon after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, chapter 2 describes that Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, which as just a few miles away. At the Temple they held one of the most significant events in the life of baby Jesus, i.e., his circumcision when he was just eight days old (Luke 2: 22-38). At the same time, the Spirit of the Lord guided an elderly “righteous and devout man,” Simeon, to come out and meet with baby Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. Luke emphatically states that Simeon “was waiting for the consolation of Israel, which means he was eagerly anticipating the Messiah. The Lord had granted him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes. So, imagine the joy on his face when Simeon finally got to not only see but hold the long-expected Messiah in his hands! He was so happy that he burst out singing, as Luke (2: 29-32) has recorded for us:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

Beside Simeon, there was a prophetess, Anna, too, who spent most of her last years worshipping God in the Temple. She too was led by the Spirit of God to come and see baby Jesus “at that very moment” (Luke 2: 38). I can imagine her joy to finally see the Messiah with her own eyes for whom she has been praying for so long. That’s why “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2: 38). I’m sure there were others too in Israel who eagerly awaited the Messiah, praying, fasting and preparing their hearts for the promise of God to be fulfilled in their life time. That’s why there were hundreds of Jewish people who readily left everything and followed Jesus Christ as soon as he began his earthly ministry.

Today, as we prepare for the Advent, the Second Coming of our Lord, we need to be people of anticipation. We need to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls, i.e., our lives, for the coming back of our Redeemer as the reigning King to establish his Kingdom. Like Simeon and Anna, we should not only eagerly anticipate but also proclaim to those who are yet to hear of his first coming. Do you live in anticipation of the coming of the Lord? What are you doing to proclaim his birth to those who have never heard of him?

Come Lord Jesus!