Archive for category: Advent

Advent: Day 6

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I’m writing a brief reflection on these readings each weekday. It’s Advent, day six.

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Readings: Isaiah 3:8-15; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; Luke 20:41-21:4

Recall yesterday’s reading from Isaiah ? Remember how the prophet wrote that all of humanity’s silver and golden gods would be left to the rodents on the day of the King’s return? Silver, gold, wealth, self-sufficiency–it’s all an illusion, the prophet says.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that today’s Advent Gospel reading also touches on wealth and self-sufficiency. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus preached to the people within earshot of the Sadducees. He warned the people of the Sadducees’ abuse of power, of they way they used their religious position to gain wealth, honor, and respect. But in the middle of his sermon, something caught his eye. Scripture records it this way:

“He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.'” (Luke 21:1-4)

Why was the woman giving everything she had? Why was she so willing to give from her poverty? I suppose we’ll never know the answers to those questions. But why did Jesus praise her sacrifice of copper over the rich man’s offering of gold and silver? This might be an easier answer. This widow, poor as she was, understood that her meager copper (not to mention gold or silver) could not save her. It was likely not enough to buy food or clothing. Perhaps it wasn’t enough to pay her rent. And in her great lack, she understood that she was dependent upon God, the sustainer of her life. He was her provision, and she intended to show thanks by returning to him what little he’d given her.

What a beautiful picture of the circle of life.

He gives.

I give back.

He gives again.

I give again.

Round, and round, and round we go.

I’ve said this before, but Advent is a season of preparation for the coming King. But what good is a season of preparation without actual preparation? Today, ask yourself these questions:

-Do you find your security in gold, silver, or your IRA?

-What will happen to that security when you meet the coming King? Will he take stock of it?

-Are you willing to give from your wealth and poverty alike? Are you willing to sacrifice in gratefulness, knowing it’s the King’s provision that sustains you?

The King is coming. The King is coming. The King is coming. Are you ready?

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

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Advent: Day 5

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I’m writing a brief reflection on these readings. It’s Advent, day five.

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Readings: Isaiah 2:12-22; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Luke 20:27-40

It’s a season of preparation, and what season of preparation would be complete without actual preparation?  And by preparation, I do not mean the hanging of the stockings, the wrapping of presents, or the soaking of the fruitcake with rum. (Is any fruitcake edible without a good rum soaking?) The preparation of Advent less about ribbons and bows and more about the heart.

Prepare the heart; prepare the heart; prepare the heart. Do you hear the call?

 

In this season of heart-preparation, here comes the prophet Isaiah, and he tugs on the black threads tangled in our DNA. He exposes the darkness of so many human hearts (mine included), and begins today’s passage with no small warning:

“…the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up–and it shall be brought low.” (Isaiah 2:12)

Brought low.

Brought low.

The proud and lofty will be brought low.

Sounding the alarm, Isaiah continues, cautions the people of Israel against finding their validation in their savings accounts, in the gods fashioned from their surplus gold and silver. What good do precious metals do the heart that is not prepared for the return of the King? On the day of the Lord’s return, Isaiah wrote,

“mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty….” (Isaiah 2:20-21)

The gold and silver will be given to the moles and bats. All that shiny security shat on by the rodents.

Brought low.

Brought low.

The proud and lofty will be brought low.

Gods of gold and silver–how do I make them today? How do I chase these lesser gods while ignoring the impending coming of the King? Lesser gods–my, how they occupy my time.

It’s a season of preparation for the coming of the King, and perhaps, like me, you find yourself trusting in the lesser gods of silver and gold. Perhaps, like me, you’ve taken pride in these worthless gods. Perhaps you’ve put your trust in the security of your own making. Is this the black thread running the length of your DNA? If so, maybe this is your mantra of preparation: the security of my making is rodent fodder. Put another way, you might remember it this way:

brought low;

brought low;

the proud and lofty will be brought low.

 

 

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Advent: Day 4

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I’m writing a brief reflection on these readings. It’s Advent, day four.

***

Readings: Isaiah 49:1-6; 1 Corinthians 4:1-16; Isaiah 55:1-5; John 1:35-42

This morning’s readings are a gripping lot. From the sword-tongued servant in Isaiah to the come-and-see admonition of Jesus, these passages are full of ponder-worthy scriptures. And yet, despite all these scriptures, one small sentence in the writings of Paul hooked me.

“I do not even judge myself.”

It is Advent, a season of preparation, and as we continue the journey of preparation, it is natural to turn to self-examination. In that self-examination, though, how prone are we to judge ourselves? How often do we size ourselves up as having fallen short of either real or arbitrary standards? Isn’t self-judgment such a death spiral?

I’m a failure.

I’m a failure.

I’m such a failure.

Woe is me, the failure.

Crash.

Burn.

Self-examination is a worthy task, a task necessary to prepare our hearts for coming of the Christ. It allows us to see just where the black thread has tightened, where it’s constricted, where it chokes. But self-reflection does not require self-judgment or self-flagellation. It doesn’t require us to enter the death-spiral of self-diagnosed failure.

There is only one judge, and he’d rather bring his Kingdom with kindness than beat the hell out of you. It’s a hard truth, but believe it.

You are not your own judge. In your Advent preparation consider the words of Paul, and refrain from judging yourself. Then,

be kind to yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

Do not judge, and be kind to yourself.

 

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Advent: Day 3

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I intended to write a brief reflection each day, but times being what they are, I’m a bit a behind. So let’s begin here: it’s Advent, day three.

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Readings: Isaiah 1:21-31; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Luke 20:9-18

The double helix of humanity is dotted with certain codes. Some carry the coding for blond hair or black skin. Some carry the coding for blue eyes or large feet. My coding gave me a crooked nose and a strong jawline. Yours gave you what? A unibrow? Puffy lips?

The coding—so much of it differs from person to person, but this much of it is identical: the black thread of rebellion weaves itself into each of our double helices. It has woven itself into over 108 billion Gordian knots since the serpent tricked our common mother.

And consider this other bit of sunshiny news on your first Tuesday of Advent: The King is returning, and he knows all the ways we’ve pulled and tugged our own black threads, the ways we’ve tightened our own knots and nooses. He’s coming, and he intends to pull every black thread loose, whether by consent or force.

This morning’s Isaiah passage examines the black thread, and the prophet puts it this way:

“How the faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her–but now murderers! … Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them.”

The parable of Jesus takes another approach, showing how specific men whose minds were set only on taking what belonged to the landowner (and aren’t we all these specific men?) strung up the landowner’s heir and put him to the death. Murder–isn’t it in all our hearts? Don’t we all wish to eliminate the obstacles of our occupation?

But here’s the good news according to Paul: we can find relief from our penchants toward bribery and murder. We can have our own black threads unwoven. Otherwise, could Paul encourage us to “lead a life worthy of God who calls [us] into his own kingdom…”?

Who has the power to unweave the knot? I suppose this is the question of Advent, the question that leads to more questions. How does God come again, and again, and again? How does he untangle our Gordian knots? Is it by consent or by force? When will he come and strip the blackness from our DNA? How does he move us from this kingdom of death and into his own kingdom?

Advent is here. Let’s walk into these questions.

 

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Conclusion)

Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I’ll explore the remaining reasons and conclusion. 

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MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

(Click the links for POINT 1, POINT 2POINT 3, POINT 4 and Points 5-6, and POINT 7 )

POINTS 8-9 AND A BRIEF CONCLUSION:

As if the life of Jesus were not supernatural enough,  Jesus stood clothed in his resurrected body on the mountainside, and he instructed his disciples one last time. “Preach, proclaim, and publish the good news about me,” he said. “Teach people my ways. And by the way, you’ll soon receive the power of the Holy Spirit.” Can you see the disciples whispering to each other? “Who is the Holy Spirit? Is this another mysterious Parable?” they might have been asking. But before they could muster the audacity to wedge their questions into the conversation, Jesus spread his arms wide as an eagle and caught an updraft to heaven. Just like that, Jesus was gone.

His actions must have befuddled the disciples. Here one day, Jesus was healing the sick and casting out demons. Gone the next, Jesus was crucified on the cross. Here again, Jesus had risen from the dead and dined among them. And now? Jesus had flown the coop, gone to only God-knows-where, and left with only the promise of a good ghost haunting.

The disciples returned to the upper room in confusion, in trembling, perhaps in anger of the ever-leaving Messiah. There, as they tended to the business of replacing Judas the betrayer, the sound of a rushing wind filled the room and fire descended, licked the air over their heads. They left, filled with this new and strange fire, this Holy Spirit over their heads and in their mouths. They street-preached the secrets of God. They street-preached conversion and the spread of Christianity began.

Jesus’ power was confined to his personage during his life. Risen from the dead, he could have stayed eternally, could have set up a kingdom of power and dominance. Instead, he chose ascension and left a Spirit-gift. It was his last holy conundrum–he vacated the world so he could fill it.

CONCLUSION

Like any unsolvable equation, the world continues to cast quizzical glances toward the life of Jesus. Was he a prophet? Was he a good teacher? Was he a yellow-toothed carpenter with a set of crazy eyes and enough charisma to scare up a band of followers that flouted the governments of the day? To the believer of the Christian story, the supernatural facets of his life–his birth of a virgin, his death and resurrection, his ascension, his gifting of the Holy Spirit–show him to be the diamond of all time and space. Jesus was God, and he came to be God With Us. And this, we say, has made all the difference.

Do you see it? This is why we celebrate Advent and Christmas. It is the supernatural, unbelievable, audacious story of God swinging low. And this leads us to the final question: has our western, hyper-rational society come to a point where it sees Christianity as a counter-rational, fringe system of belief? I might offer this answer: if it does not, perhaps Christians are doing something wrong; perhaps we are teaching something far less Christian than we’d like to admit.

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A CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY AND A COUPON CODE

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