Anticipating Advent: A Season of Expectation

Advent is a season of expectation.
I know this intellectually, but in the day-to-day busyness of life, it can be far too easy to dwell on immediate and present struggles, and miss out on what should be a time of meditating on the promise of Immanuel–God with us.
Perhaps this is why God has seen fit to fill my life with reminders; gentle invitations to Advent reflection:
Shortly after I finished my student-teaching in December of 2008, God called me to teach in Japan.  It was a sudden, unexpected call, and as I spent the days leading up to Christmas preparing to embark on an adventure half a world away from home and family, I found myself looking ahead to Christmas in a new way, cherishing the comfort of familiar Advent passages.
The next year, December saw me in the thick of my first full year of teaching.  I was overwhelmed, tired, and sick as I boarded the plane from Tokyo to Vancouver, to spend my vacation with my family.  I’d been looking forward to the break–counting down the days, then the hours.  As I looked ahead to my much-awaited Christmas vacation, I leaned again on the truth of the Advent season, the promise of a celebration far greater than a two-week respite from a stressful school-year.
In 2013, I spent most of my December preparing to get married on the 28th.  Accompanying the joy and excitement that I would soon be making a lifelong commitment to my best friend was a feeling of unpreparedness–was I ready to be a husband?  Looking ahead to my wedding, too, drove me to Advent expectation.
This year, as my wife and I celebrate three years of marriage, we look ahead together to the birth of our first child, due in February.  We are filled simultaneously with joy and trepidation as we are transfixed by each new ultrasound, as we feel the kicks and flutters, and make a rudimentary list of what we need to do and acquire before the baby arrives.  Once more, I am comforted by the promise fulfilled in the arrival of another baby, millennia ago.  In Jesus Christ, God entered human existence to dwell with us.
We do not worship a distant God, but one who acquainted Himself with our struggles so that He could die for us.
Such a powerful truth should not need reminders, but sin makes us short-sighted and forgetful.
I am profoundly grateful that even when my attention drifts to the ground beneath my feet–to the aches and pains of the here and now–God patiently, ceaselessly, lifts my chin and fixes my gaze on what lies ahead.
~Nate Gibson, Tokyo, Japan
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Listening Through Lent: What is Truth?

The late Steve Jobs stated:  “Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is the result of other peoples’ thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

This modern way of thinking where there is no absolute truth is wrong and is not new. Listen to what Pilate says at Jesus trial in John 18:38. Retorts Pilate, “ What is Truth!” As then, today much of what is taught and received is based on a persons’ subjective feelings rather than on the absolute objective dogma “ doctrine” on who Christ is and what he has done. Subjective teaching and learning has permeated much of what is taught even in our churches where feelings of what matters to you are what counts. Having said this we must not be stoic lacking emotions, rather emotions should flow from what the Bible teaches about Christ, who, he is and what he has done for us.

An exposition from Alexander MacLaren gives us a good illustration of fact and truth, showing that the Gospel is a teaching of historical true facts. Christ came to earth went to the cross and gave himself for us. These truths are solid realities of facts. MacLaren illustrates. “ Suppose four people, for instance, standing at the foot of the Christ’s cross; four “other” evangelists than the four we know. There is a Roman soldier, there is a Pharisee; there is one of the weeping crowd of poor women not disciples; and there is a disciple. The first man tells the fact; a Jewish rebel was crucified this morning. The second man tells the fact; a blaspheming apostate suffered what he deserved today. The woman tells the fact a poor gentle, fair soul, was martyred today; and the fourth one tells the fact; Jesus Christ, the Son of God died for our sins. The three tell the same fact; the fourth preaches the Gospel that is to say the fact of Christian teaching the plus the Gospel’s explanation; {dogma] doctrine if you will, this makes all the difference.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, Jesus of Nazareth died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. That turns the story of facts into teaching which molds our life. We have a religion with its basis in Divine truth. The revolt against “man’s” dogma is often in danger of casting away God’s truth. Hold on to the objective truth that declares the Divinity and sacrifice of Jesus Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Remember our feelings and our knowledge will not work without the objective facts of the Gospel that requires our obedience.

TELL ME THE STORY OF JESUS by Fanny Crosby

1. Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word,

Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.

Tell how the angels, in chorus, sang as they welcomed his birth,

“Glory to God in the highest!  Peace and good tidings to Earth.”

Refrain

2. Fasting alone in the desert, tell of the days that are past,

How for our sins He was tempted, yet was triumphant at last.

Tell of the years of His labor tell of the sorrow He bore;

He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.

Refrain.

3. Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, writhing in anguish and pain,

Tell of the grave where they laid Him, tell how He liveth again.

LOVE in that story so tender, clearer than ever I see;

Stay, let me weep while you whisper, LOVE paid the ransom for me.

Refrain

Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word;

Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.

OBJECTIVE TRUTH

Jesus answered “I am the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE, no
man cometh to the Father but by Me. John 14:16

~Nick and Diana Laninga

 

Christ Comes to Us to Testify to the Truth

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
John 18: 37-38

Jesus is on trial before Pilate, just hours before going to the cross, having been sentenced by the crowd to death by crucifixion.  Jesus says he has “come into the world to testify to the Truth.  Everyone on the side of Truth listens to me.”

Pilate’s response, “what is Truth?” is so typical of our world today.  They say “truth is relative”  or “that is your truth and it is OK if it is different than my truth.”

Webster defines truth:  Quality or state of being true, that which conforms to fact or reality.

What Truth is Jesus testifying to?
John 1:14  Jesus came as the Word made flesh, from the Father, full of Grace and Truth.
Jesus is Truth.

John 14:6  Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. no one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you know the Father as well.
The Father is Truth.

All of the gospels are full of Jesus’ s testimony  “I tell you the Truth……”

Do we listen to Him?
Do we believe what He tells us?
Do we seek Truth / facts  in all areas of our lives?
Are we “on the side of Truth” or are we like the world who chases after “my truth”, which is often lies or fantasy?

Thank you, LORD Jesus, that you have come to teach us the Truth about who you are: Christ Our LORD and Savior.  Help us always to seek Truth,  to seek YOU.
~Pam Herbert

Exceeding Expectations

But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
Luke 4:43

As we found out in the wake of last week’s tragedy, news travels quickly, but not always accurately. Names and motives become confused and soon we are only left with a fragment of the truth. The same is true of God’s Word. We have exchanged the truth for a much easier lie. For many in 1st century Judea that lie was one of establishing right relationship with God through rigorous covenant adherence. For others, it was the belief that the Messiah would re-establish Israel as a political power. For many today it is the belief that social justice or mere proclamation is enough to communicate the full truth of the Gospel.

Christ, in his incarnation, shows us something radically different. He is both truth and action. He looked on the people following him and saw that their understanding of His ministry was incomplete. He was not simply here to heal. He was not here to only be seen as the Son of God. He came full of compassion, knowing that he had to join truth and action for a world which had lost sight of both. This advent season, we anxiously await a Christ whose kingdom will not fit our expectations, but exceed them. Come Lord Jesus, come.
~Ben Gibson

Sharing Abundantly

2 Corinthians 1:5–For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

To follow Jesus does not mean an end to suffering but it means we willingly and joyfully choose to share the overwhelming burden He has borne in payment for our sin.

God sending His Son to walk among us
did not end sin on earth
but showed mankind how
to choose mercy rather than tyranny,
to offer forgiveness rather than blame,
to express gratitude rather than resentment,
to share what little we have rather than covet all that we desire.

By seeking truth, by following Jesus,  the comfort found in Him will far outweigh our suffering.

He was born for this.  And so were we.

E. Gibson