Hunger Must Resist Apathy
As we enter the season of Advent, it is appropriate for us to examine our appetites. What are we hungry for? What are we waiting for? What is an empty place in us that we desire be filled?
Scripture is full of examples of those who experienced deep hunger. Hannah longed so deeply for a child that she poured out her heart to the LORD (see 1 Sam. 1:1-16). The sons of Korah expressed a desperate desire for the manifest presence of God (see Psalm 42). Simeon and Anna persisted in waiting for the promised Messiah (see Luke 2:22-38). I encourage you to take note of these three passages and take time this Advent season to reflect upon each. Ask yourself anew, “What am I hungry for in this season of my life?”
Hunger is uncomfortable. Waiting is difficult. It is much easier to distract ourselves with busyness, satisfy ourselves with lesser things, or give in to apathy to dull the pain of unmet desires. But we deceive ourselves. Listen to God’s message to the church of Laodicea. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked . . . Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev. 3:17, 20). They had no hunger for God because they were satisfied with material wealth.
The same invitation is extended to us. “Here I am!” Jesus wants to fill the lives of those who are hungry for His presence. A similar invitation is extended in the parable of the great banquet found in Luke 14:15-24. Those who were invited declined with disrespectful excuses. They chose to be satisfied with lesser things. Their lack of hunger disqualified them from the feast and the fellowship. In response, my heart is stirred, and I pray: “May this never be true of me! Lord, increase my hunger for your provision and presence.”
So, again, I ask: What are you hungry for? This Advent season, what are you waiting for? Identify your deepest desires and speak them to the Father. Perhaps you desire a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit for yourself or your church. Perhaps you are waiting for a prodigal to return. Perhaps you are waiting for the salvation of a loved one. Perhaps you need emotional, relational, spiritual, or physical healing. Pour out your heart in prayer. Wait before the Lord. Deepen your experience through fasting.
Let us enter this season of waiting with a fresh hunger for the deeper things of God. May we resist the temptations to distract, to numb, to overindulge, to give up hope. And the God who is perfect in love and completely trustworthy will, at just the right time, say, “Here I am!”
Check Your Connections
I was frustrated. Why did I have to wash the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher? And why did I have to re-wash the same dishes after they came out of the dishwasher? Did I mention I was frustrated? I was ready to give up and wash all the dishes by hand or give in and purchase a new dishwasher. The one I was using was not functioning as it had been designed.
Then my husband discovered the problem. One part of the dishwasher, the tube that delivers water from the water source to the top rack of the dishwasher, was not properly connected. Instead, it was sitting next to the opening that provided the connection. Close but not connected. Once the tube was in place, the dishwasher cleaned my dishes perfectly. No more frustration!
This episode caused me to reflect on my life and the purpose for which I had been created (see Eph. 2:10). When I feel frustrated with my attitudes and actions, when my life seems to be functioning at a “less than acceptable” level, could it be a problem with a crucial connection?
We have been created for relationship with both God and others. When either connection is broken or misaligned, life becomes less than what God intended.
We must take an honest look at our relationship with God. Scripture warns that it is possible to do good works, even in the name of Jesus and not be connected to Him (see Matt. 7:21–23). It is possible to do good works in our own strength, but it is not sustainable. You may ask, “Why is it so hard to love that unlovable person?” or “Where is the joy and peace I once experienced?” This is the time to examine if you are connected to the Source of love, joy, and peace, realizing that apart from Him we can do nothing (see John 15:5). This can be an opportunity to confess and reconnect.
In our personal relationships, we are instructed to make every effort live in peace with everyone (see Heb. 12:14) and to make things right between ourselves and others before approaching God (see Matt. 5:23–24). If we ignore these instructions, we will be frustrated with the quality of our lives. Make things right with others. Reconcile and reconnect—this is the way of Jesus.
In this season of Advent, in this season of reflection and waiting, I encourage us all to check our connections. Am I properly connected to others? Is there something I need to make right? Am I completely connected to Jesus? Am I still trying to do good works in my own strength?
Let’s not live our lives like my dysfunctional dishwasher. Instead, acknowledge that close is not good enough. Properly connect with God again so that you may be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God (see Eph. 3:19). And from that fullness, restore and repair your connections with the people in your life.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
As we turn our calendars to December, we turn our attention toward the Christmas season. I appreciate seasons. Life would be monotonous were it not for the beautiful rhythms of change. As we enter the Advent season, I embrace the opportunity to wait, contemplate, and rejoice in the gracious gift given to all mankind, the Word made flesh, Jesus.
Charles Wesley published Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord, a collection or 18 hymns, in 1744. Although this collection was reprinted 20 times before Wesley died in 1788, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” is the only one to survive into popular usage throughout the years. This hymn has a timeless quality.
A Common Longing
All mankind longs for freedom, for release from fears and sin. Jesus is the only One who can set us free through His all-sufficient merit as the perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus conquered sin and the grave
A Universal Satisfaction
Jesus is able to meet the needs of all mankind. This hymn describes Jesus as “hope of all the earth” and “dear desire of every nation.” There is no culture, no personality, no generation beyond His reach. Jesus is the one and only gift given to all. Jesus is the only One who can bring us back to God the Father.
For All Seasons
In all seasons, not just during Advent, in response to our longing Jesus replies: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” [Matthew 11:28-29]
Accept Jesus’ gracious invitation and find your rest in Him. Jesus is, indeed, the joy of every longing heart. Let Him rule in your heart alone, reigning in your life forever. Let Him be both your strength and consolation.
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
Copyright: Public domain
My Soul Magnifies the Lord
I love the story of Mary. When I was a teenager I read a popular book by Marjorie Holmes, “Two from Galilee.”
Though it involves some imagination, this historical novel gave me a glimpse of what Mary’s life would have
been like. I’ve studied and taught on the passages that include Mary. Each time, I am drawn to the song of
Mary where her heart sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46).
Nevertheless, this year in preparation for the season, when I read and reread the birth narrative, I was struck by
something new. “Highly favored one . . . you have found favor” (Luke 1:28;30). These words popped off the
page at me. I have read this story many times, as I am sure you have. But for some reason the word “favor”
stuck with me.
Since the Almighty is holy in everything He does, then everything He does, He does in a perfect way. He loves
in a perfect way, He disciplines in a prefect way, and He favors in a perfect way. Therefore, He didn’t favor
Mary like a teacher’s pet. He doesn’t play favorites, giving one an unfair advantage over another (Luke 20:21).
Mary simply “found favor in His eyes,” a Hebrew expression still used in Israel today, but found often in the
Bible (Motze chen b’enav). Having used this expression myself, I’ll explain it as “notice to the point of
delight.” So, what qualities attract the Father’s attention and please Him?
Since we always interpret scripture with scripture, to understand this, I looked to see what The Word had to
say about finding favor. Proverbs 3 is explicit in describing characteristics that find favor in God’s eyes.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let loving kindness and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. (literally: find grace and good favor in the eyes of God and man)… Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor “(Proverbs 3:1-4; 34)
From what we know of Mary, these qualities sure sound like her! She was teachable and obedient (Luke 1:34;
Luke2:21-24). She pondered truth in her heart (Luke 2:19). Mary was faithful even to the end (She was with
Jesus at the cross and waited in the upper room, per his instruction. See John 19:25; Act 1:13-15). In accepting
this glorious yet daunting task, at risk to her pure reputation, she complied humbly, “I am the Lord’s servant… May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38). And so, Mary found favor in the eyes of God.
The Word tells us of others who found favor with God. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time. He
walked with God (Genesis 6:8-9). Moses met with God face to face as one meets with a friend (Exodus 33:11-
12). And Samuel obeyed God’s voice from an early age (1 Samuel 2:26).
From the Proverbs passage, we learn that finding favor with God, includes obedience to his word, loving
kindness, faithfulness and humility. One must also embrace truth and inscribe it upon the heart. From the
examples of Noah, Moses and Samuel, the one desiring His favor should walk with Him faithfully, in a
manner that stands out among peers; spend time with Him like one does with a friend; and listen carefully to
all that He has to say.
Nonetheless, Mary is a wonderful example to us all! When given an overwhelming task, she humbly accepted
it. Mary recognized her life was not about her, but Christ in her. This is why Mary could sing, “My soul
magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”