Preparing the way of us

My Reflections                 Daily Office Lectionary for 12/22/2012

Preparing the Way for Us

A straight and level path is always the easiest to walk. The uneven, crooked, with sudden turns, constantly up and down, type of path that is more difficult.

In our gospel passage this morning hear John the Baptist utter these words;

                As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

                “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

                ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

                                make his paths straight.

                Every valley shall be filled,

                                and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

                and the crooked shall become straight,

                                and the rough places shall become level ways,

                and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

(Luke 3:4-6 ESV)

John the Baptist came to prepare the way of the Lord. It was his duty as a prophet of God to pave the way for the Messiah, so that the Messiah would have smooth path of entrance into the world. And in fact, the transition between John and Jesus in the gospels is fairly smooth. Jesus indeed picks up where John left off and many of Johns disciples at his behest, become Jesus disciples.

If the Messiah is to on straightened and evened paths, where every low place has been filled, where mountains have been laid low, and the crooked and rough places have been removed, so the path is indeed level. What kind of path are we to walk upon as His followers?

Though many things can be said in answer to this question, I think the New Testament reading from this morning gives a good answer.

                Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

(Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

We must trust in the one who can keep us from ‘stumbling’. We must follow in His footsteps. We must follow in the upright and righteous path that He has set before us. That path will lead us into the “presence of His glory with great joy…” where we will be found “blameless”.

Any other deviation off the path Jesus has provided for us will lead us in the wrong way and away from His presence. And when we take a path that leads us away from Christ and His will for our lives, we indeed have no one to blame but ourselves. Making the choice to go the wrong way is hardly, “blameless” .  

Jude also reminds us that it is Jesus who is able to keep us blameless.  Paul would remind us that, when we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. John would tell us when we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship the Son and His Father, as well as with one another. And this is all in Christ and all by grace. It is Jesus Himself that enables us to walk the level, even, right, and righteous path and who keeps us from stumbling.

Just as John prepared the way of the Lord, so the Lord has prepared the way for us! Jesus alone is the author and finisher of our faith.  Jesus alone is the good Shepherd who leads His sheep on the path to green pastures, still waters, through the valley of the shadow, where a table is set for us before our enemies, and into the house of the Lord. We must depend on Jesus to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves or by ourselves.

Peter’s path over the stormy sea was a level and straight despite the unevenness of the waves. It was only when Peter looked away from Jesus at the wind and the waves and the storm raging around him that he began to sink. It was the gracious hand of Jesus that lifted him back up when cried for help and once again affixed his gaze and his faith on our Lord. Jesus enabled him to do what he could not do by himself.

If Jesus can enable Peter to walk on the unstable surface of a stormy sea, then He can provide whatever is necessary for me to walk in His footsteps today and every day.

Today, each choice I make will either take me in the direction the Lord wants me to go or on some other path away from His will. I must allow Him to guide me and instruct me in my choices.

The straight path according to scripture is narrow. So I must focus on Him and the path He has laid before me in accordance with the teachings of Gods Word, as I follow Him.

                but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

(1 John 2:5-6 ESV)

He alone can enable me to walk as He walked. To walk in His footsteps I need Him to walk in me.

Soli Deo Gloria

D. M. Sutton

Advent Fire

Reflections on Scripture from the Daily Office Lectionary                    

Thursday, December 20, 2012

 Matthew 3:1-12

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire!

What do you think of when you think of fire? Many things may come to my mind. At Christmas time some may think of the Yule log.  Right now I am sitting near to an empty fire place in my house on a cold, windy, December morning.  I am thinking about how much nicer it would be if the fire place had a log blazing with the flame, radiating warmth into the living room right now. Instead the fire place is dark, empty, and cold, providing no warmth for those within the house.

In the gospel passage for the day we find that fire would serve two purposes as Christ appears upon the scene. John proclaims that, he (John the Baptist) would baptize with water, symbolizing repentance, the washing away of past sin, and turning from sin to righteousness. While the one who came after him, Jesus, would baptize His followers with the Holy Spirit and fire! No washing, just a burning. And tragically those who rejected Christ would become like the worthless chaff, blown by the wind, and thrown into the fire to be burned.

Here fire serves two purposes. Fire can cleanse and empower or it can burn and destroy.  According, to this passage, all of us at some point will face the fire. Either a blessing or a blistering is in store. The choice is always ours.

For me, my lot is decided. I do not have to be concerned about the fiery blaze of the fires of Hell because I have instead chosen, the way that leads to the bliss of Heaven.  I have thrown in on the side of Christ. My Christmas is about embracing the Christ who has come and who will one day come again in glory! But I have not avoided the fire.

My soul has been touched by fire of His presence. It happened decades ago when I was only a nine year old boy and I am now 59. I remember the very moment His fire touched my soul so long ago. Most fires tend to lose their vigor and slowly begin to burn out as time passes. Finally, all that is left is blackened charred wood and soft grey ash, the remains of what has been consumed by the fire, but no fire.  But not so when set afire by the flame of His presence. It is an “other worldly” fire that consumes yet does not consume the person that is the object of the flame.  Decades have past, but the fire burns brighter than ever!

I am grateful that as I have grown older the flame has only grown hotter. As my body weakens the flame of His presence does not. As times grow darker the flame grows yet brighter. As the world around us grows colder and more indifferent, the flame within my heart only grows in intensity, and burns away the cold, dead wood hardness of indifference from my soul. That instead of going out, it has only become more than it ever was before, like a forest fire that cannot be put out.

That my heart, my soul has become the His home and His hearth.  That He seeks to kindle this strange and holy fire within me. His desire is to warm and comfort others from the fireplace of what is my life.  That every place I should go, every person I make contact with should be warmed by His presence and His love and yet still aware of pureness and holiness of the flame itself. That others through my life should be beckoned to draw close to warmth of the flame, that they should be set afire themselves, with no fear of consumption, but they might become a part of His presence as well.

As surely as John baptized people who came to him in water, submerging them under the waters of the Jordan.  Just as surely our Lord desires to submerge us into the pure flaming presence of His love and Holiness. His desire is that we might know the flame of His presence and power, covering us, filling us, yet never consuming and every growing us, as we ourselves become part of the living flame.

The flame is doing something strange to me. I am aware of it.  And that which I once feared I now embrace. I am very aware, that I have never thought this way before, I have never written in this way, or understood things in this way. I have changed and I am ever changing. This person I am becoming is a new person! It is not so much I am being made new in time as I am being made new in kind. I feared I would lose myself when I touched that flame, yet I have unexpectedly found myself. The old self was a dark shadow compared to who I am becoming in the light of His presence.  The false self, who was dominated by the sin nature of Adam my first father;  is now giving way to the new self being created and conformed to the image of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God!   To lose my life is to gain it!  To die is to live and to live is to die…yes, yes, it all makes sense now!  I am being conformed to the image of Gods beloved Son! Once dead wood, I am becoming a part of the living flame that has come to give life and light to every person who will believe.

 I now understand Paul’s words, not because of my ability to comprehend what I read, but because I am actually experiencing the flame within, the fiery baptism of His presence. “For me to live is Christ, yet not I live, but Christ lives in me…” and “we all with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” I understand Jesus words all the more clearly, In that day you will know that I am in my Father, you in me, and I in you” and “And if anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  My life is no longer my home but our home,  and in fact His home. I am not being consumed by this Holy fire, just being made a part of the eternally burning flame that has come to light the world.

The flame burns though. It is not always a pleasant experience. The thrice Holy fire burns away the sinful workings of the flesh, the old sinful nature that lives within me. It requires that I die to my old self in order to live to God and fully realize my new self, and this is a daily requirement.  My life must be purged and my soul purified by the cleansing Holiness of His flaming presence.  The resulting purification is often a painful and humbling process. The bridge to my past way of life has been burned and lay in ashes before me, there is no safe return. And why would I? In the distance, as I look backward.  I see the old house of my life being consumed by the flame, yet I look forward, I see a new and better house, an indestructible one, being constructed by the very hands of God. I move forward.

Now the words of the old ancient Christian reformer and mystic John of the Cross make for uncommon spiritual sense:

I will say it plainly: The fire of Love that will afterward unite with the soul and bring it glory is the same fire which begins by assailing it in order to cleanse and purify. In order to picture this, think of the way that fire penetrates a log. As the flame begins it burns away the outer imperfections, stripping the log of scars and roughness. As its heat mounts, the fire penetrates into the log itself, until wood and flame are one. Just so, fire transforms wood into fire.

David Hazard. You Set My Spirit Free: A 40-Day Journey in the Company of John of the Cross (Kindle Locations 331-333). Kindle Edition.

Set my soul afire Oh, Lord, set my soul afire. The hearth of that is my heart, no longer dark, empty, cold, and devoid of warmth and comfort. Fire, Holy fire! May others be drawn to the warmth of your flame eternally burning brightly in so many?

Soli Deo Gloria

D. Sutton

If Jesus were here Himself…

Reflections on the Daily Office Lectionary for Today – Tuesday, December 18, 2012

                For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

(2 Peter 1:16 ESV)

                When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”

(Luke 22:66-69 ESV)

Dear reader, I am sure you have heard the phrase or something similar to it, usually spoken from a defensive posture of some sort, “If Jesus Himself were here Himself, and told you this or that, you would not believe it.” And sadly, if Jesus were here Himself, and spoke as He did in the days of old, some people would not believe Him.

Many people will celebrate Christmas this year who do not know the Christ of Christmas. For them it is X-mas. And there is not war on Christmas for them, for there is no Christ to war over from their prospective. The Jesus of X-Mas for them either an imaginary figure like Santa Clause, a misunderstood martyr, a good man and good teacher who crossed the wrong people, or at best some kind of prophet. So for them Christmas is all about family, friends, parties, and material things, with little or no regard for God or His Son.

If Jesus Himself showed up and spoke to them, perhaps some of them would still not believe. Why? Because some do not just disbelieve, some actually hate the very idea of the Christ of Christmas. To X Him out of Christmas is not a problem for them, it is a pleasure. The Jesus of Christmas makes them uncomfortable. To acknowledge that Jesus is who the Bible proclaims Him to be, means to vacate the throne of their lives and allow Him to sit on the throne of their hearts. They understand that to acknowledge Him is bow a knee and confess His Lordship, not remain Lords to themselves!

Think of the scene from the gospel reading from today’s lectionary reading. Jesus the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, through whom God created all things, who came down from Heaven itself, full of grace and truth, who has beheld the very face of the Father, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, and who lived an absolutely perfect life. Here He stands before exceedingly sinful, foolish, mere mortals who demand an answer from the great “I am” clothed in human flesh! The clay now makes demands of the potter.

He stands before them bound with chains after allowing Himself to be physically bruised and beaten at their hands, in majestic humility, while they stand bound by smallish, sinful, human pride, and arrogance thinking they, the finite, can pass judgment, on Gods Son who is infinite.  Just like many atheists today.

And Jesus does proclaim who He was and is to them. They understood what Jesus meant concerning Himself when He said to them;

                But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”

(Luke 22:69 ESV)

But their response was exactly as Jesus said it would be.

                “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.

(Luke 22:67-68 ESV)

Do not despair then if people refuse to give you an open mind and a listening ear when you attempt to share your faith. Other people did the same thing with Jesus standing right in front of them. But do exactly what Jesus did. Tell them anyway.

You never can tell. You might plant the seed that will lead them to one day, put the Christ of Christmas, back into their X-Mas.

Sadly, one day they will acknowledge Jesus is the Christ like it or not. But instead of a time of celebration it will be a time of mourning for them.  Their knees will bend, their heads will bow, and they will listen finally.  No laughing, mocking, or derision on that day. Truth will rule. The Christ of Christmas was real all along, but they missed it.

Better to bow the knee now, as Wise men did so many years ago, they still do today. Behold, now is the time, and today is the day of salvation! Christmas draws near and the Christ of Christmas will one day return. Are you ready?

Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Soli Deo Gloria

D. Sutton

I am among you as a servant…

Reflections from the Daily Office Lectionary – Friday, December 14, 2012
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
(Luke 22:27 ESV)

The Advent story is the story of a God who came among us to serve. And indeed the people of Jesus time were not prepared for God to come and be among them in such a way. Yet He did.

The Supreme ruler of the universe clothes Himself in human flesh, was born into this world in a sheep stall, to a common laborer and poor, young woman from a small village, in what was at that time a back water nation of the Roman Empire. All this in order to perform the greatest service humanity could ever receive…our redemption. No greater love, no greater service, a service born from a heart of love.

The world was reclining, resting in sin. A people without any real sense of the distance humanity had traveled away from the garden and the God who once walked in the garden with them.

He came unto His own and they received Him not. But for those that did they would never be the same.

His place of service would be a cross not a wooden table. The cup and the bread once served at the Passover table would become symbols of His service and sacrifice on a wooden cross.

He gave His life so that we might live. He came here that we may one day go there. He served us that we might serve Him and so through our lives He might continue to serve others.

I am among you as one who serves…still. Christ in you the Hope of glory.
Soli Deo Gloria
D. Sutton

When Opportunity Knocks…it might not be what you expect!

ESV/BCP – Daily Office Lectionary – 12/8/12 – My Lectio notes.

But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
(Luke 21:12-15 ESV)

“This will be your opportunity to bear witness…”

Whenever we think of an opportunity, we think of it in positive if not glowing terms. We often hear the word ‘door of opportunity’ and think of it as door opened by the Lord so that we might step forward into a more advantageous situation in life like a better job, nicer home, new career, a good deal at just the right time, an investment, or even a romantic possibility that heretofore had not been available. We think in terms of something that helps our cause or advances us in our earthly interest. We are pretty materialistic when it comes to thinking about the word opportunity.

As we read the lectionary passages for today we discover opportunity from God’s prospective might be something altogether different. In fact, His kind of opportunities, are of the kind many of us would attempt to avoid at all cost. Why? Because the kind of opportunities God offers do not always put us in a situation where we will realize some kind of great financial, material, or romantic advantage. In fact, for some in Christian history the opportunity to do something meaningful, significant, and eternal would cost them their very lives. Ugh, that’s a downer!

Remember, part of Advent is the story of a gentle babe that was born in a manger, but whose life mission would be fulfilled by dying on a cross for the sins of the world. The cruelty of the Roman cross, an instrument of humiliating, torture, became for Jesus an opportunity to express God’s immeasurable love and save those who would believe from sin.

One of my devotionals for the Advent season is “You Set My Spirit Free: 40 Days with John of the Cross”. When you read the story of his life you realize John was not called John of the ‘Cross’ for nothing. His ‘opportunity to bear witness…’ in life came in the form of being one of the reformers in the Catholic Church of the 16th Century. He did not make a fortune then and he gets none of the royalties made off the selling and usage his writings today. He is famous for his little volume, “Dark night of the Soul’ that has touched and inspired Christians from all denominations for centuries. His writings were not so popular back then, in some circles. His literary critic’s did not just ignore his writings as many today would do with wordy Facebook post like my own. No thumbs up and move on. His critic’s gave him a big thumbs down and wanted to put an end to both he and his work in the most literal sense of the words ‘put to an end’. The opportunity afforded him by the Lord has changed the lives of countless thousands over the centuries. In the time he lived it offered him hatred at the very mention of his name in some circles, torture, beatings, to have most his writings confiscated and destroyed, and imprisonment. Opportunities offered to Reformers through the centuries are sometimes a quick but painful advancement to the Pearly Gates.

It is a reminder that our faithfulness to the Lord is not proved or tested in the tranquil waters of ease, but in the stormy waves of adversity. Sometimes our greatest opportunity to be a witness for Christ and carry out His mission for us in this world is not the place that pays us the most money, affords us the most power and popularity, or advances some romantic cause in our lives. Sometimes, just sometimes opportunity takes the form of a Cross. The opportunity for the light of Christ to shine most brightly in our lives is sometimes in the darkest moments of our lives.

When opportunity comes a knocking, it might come in the form of a very challenging situation. Sometimes it comes disguised as the deepest and darkest of moments in life. And in that moment we become aware of the opportunity we have to let the light of Christ shine in our lives despite the pain, the hurt, the shock, the unfairness of it all,  the disappointment, the price, the consequences, or the penalty we might experience from bearing witness. It is our opportunity, an opportunity known by God from the foundation of the world, but a surprise to us at the moment in we are experiencing it some cases. In that moment we make a conscious decision under the movement of the Holy Spirit to allow our lives to glorify our Lord. And I know this by experience, not from reading about it in a book.

The Psalms we read in the Daily Lectionary remind us of the many, many opportunities David was afforded. For him it was sometimes woe is me and others it was praise the Lord. Romans 8:28-29 had not been written yet! One of Jesus opportunities came as He stood before Pilate. One of Paul and Peters greatest opportunities led them to stand before Nero. One of Stephen’s opportunities came as he stood before his brothers who were holding stones in their hands. And I could go on and on.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned; they were sawn in two, [29] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References) (Kindle Locations 37752-37754). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

What does my Lord desire of me? To endure and remain faithful not matter what and to take advantage of the opportunities in life He presents me with. He would have me look at situations that appear to be negative as a positive opportunity to be a witness of Christ. Those things are not always as they seem and I am never alone. He has promised to give me the words I am to speak and the understanding of what to do in such situations. Such opportunities come so that I might be a witness for Christ. I should shine brightest when it is darkest and the darkest of situations need the light Christ to be seen in my life. For these opportunities are the kind others see and never forget. These opportunities if taken advantage of further the work of Christ in this world and allow others to experience the next!

Life is actually laden with opportunities. If we will but just see them for what the are. Each day presents us with opportunities.

Soli Deo Gloria
D. Sutton

Advent, more than a babe in a manger…

ESV/BCP Daily Office Lectionary – 12/7/12- My devotional notes.

 From Psalm 22 and Luke 20:41-44

For me Advent is both looking backwards and forwards. It is looking at Jesus from a different prospective in scripture. As we read what the scriptures have to say about Jesus throughout the Advent season we do not exclusively see Him as the little babe born in the manger.

During the Advent season we also see Him as the long waited Jewish Messiah who came to fulfill all the promises of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. We see Him as the Jesus who was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit, wondrously born of a Virgin Mary, who lived a sinless perfect life, sacrificially died for our sins on the cross, victoriously rose from the dead, and who gloriously ascended to heaven. In Revelation we also read about the Jesus who will one day return as King of King and Lord of Lords and reign beyond into eternity as the Alpha and Omega, who has neither beginning nor end.

Advent reading of scriptures, allow us to see Jesus from more than just one place in time and human history. We are given an all, encompassing, panoramic view, from the lenses of scripture. It is in reality a God’s eye view. We see Him as some people have described Him, as the “Cosmic Christ”.  We see a Christ who transcends the boundaries of time and space and reality as we know it.

Before this Christ, not only do Shepherds and Wise Men kneel, and Angels sing, but all of Heaven and Nature, all who have ever existed, past and present and future, will one day bow and worship. I humbly bow my head and kneel my heart even as I write these words.  I am fully aware the words I am writing are an act of devotion and worship! My heart sings within me and my soul doeth magnify the Lord!

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)

It is as if the Father Himself is painting a Masterpiece on the canvass of eternity with words. We both see it and are a part of it, but Jesus is the main object and subject of the Fathers work.

In the Lectionary reading of the Psalms today we see a vivid portrayal of the crucifixion of Christ, long before Jesus was born. Hundreds of years before Jesus death we see an account that is so realistic in its portrayal that if we close our eyes and listen to the words read, we see Jesus suffering on the cross in great detail, but amazingly from the His prospective, not that of the on lookers.

In Psalm 22 David not only speaks of how he feels about a difficult situation in his own life, but at the same time amazingly gives us a prophecy concerning his royal descendant. We see not only King David’s difficulties, but Christ crucified hundreds of years later, and then thousands of years later adored and worshiped. The final view in this Psalm is of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the Messiah, whose reign and dominion will never end.

We read:

All the ends of the earth shall remember

  And turn to the LORD,

 And all the families of the nations

  shall worship before you.

 For kingship belongs to the LORD,

  and he rules over the nations.

(Psalm 22:27-28 ESV)

And we read yet again:

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;

  before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,

  even the one who could not keep himself alive.

 Posterity shall serve him;

  it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;

 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,

  that he has done it.

(Psalm 22:29-31 ESV)

In the gospel reading for the day we see the Lord Himself speak these words:

But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,

 “Sit at my right hand,

  until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

(Luke 20:41-44 ESV)

What is the Lord saying to me today? What does He want me do or understand about what He has revealed to me from today’s readings? I think He wants me to realize that I am a servant of the Lord. That Jesus is not just my Savior but also my Lord. That my life is to be about doing His will not my own. That I have a part to play in what He is doing in time and eternity at this present moment.

That I am just a little jot or dot from the Masters brush. Just a whisk of living paint from His life creating brush. By His grace He has allowed me to be a very small, yet somehow significant part of the grand and glorious design of this wondrous Masterpiece that the Lord Himself is painting on the fabric of time and eternity. That it is an honor to be included. That whenever I serve Him I am a living answer to a prayer prayed by all Christians though out all ages, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. That I am a part of a living and breathing Advent portrait of Christ that has yet to be completed, yet is already complete. Thank you my Lord. Let my jot and dot, my small place, be bright and light, so that it might point others to you, the Master Artist.

Soli Deo Gloria (Really!!!)

D. Sutton

Advent – A season of hope

ESV/BCP Daily Office Lectionary – 12/06/12 – My Lectio notes.

I Thessalonians 3; Luke 21:27-40

so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

(1 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV)

But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
(Luke 20:37-38 ESV)

This last week a couple of good friends of mine on two different occasions asked me how I was doing this Christmas season. Both of them with gentle concern etched in their voices and knowing looks. And I deeply appreciate their love and concern. Friends like that are a blessing.

What would cause them to be concerned you might ask? This is the first Christmas in 32 years I will celebrate without my beautiful beloved daughter Jeanette. Most people don’t know that the last time I saw Jeanette, held her, hugged her, and got one of those big old Nettie kisses was on Christmas evening at the front door as she left with Buzz, Christie, and my beloved grandchildren. Little did I know at that moment, that this was the last moment I would share with Jeanette face to face, at least here on earth. The last time I would hear her sweet voice and see that big smile. I talked to her a few times on the phone and we texted back and forth during the month of January, but that Christmas afternoon and evening would be the last time we would be together.

My answer to them both was, “I am doing better than I thought I would.” Now Christmas day is not here yet and the rest of the season lies ahead of me. But God has given me great peace and I am comforted by His Word and yes, His presence in and around my life. Advent is very real to me…He came to me in my distress and I know He is present with me spiritually always; and one day He is coming back in person, physically with all his saints. And Nettie will be one of those saints on that day. For He is not the God of dead but of the living and all live to Him.

Yes, one day I will see the Lord in all His Glory and I will also see Jeanette in all her perfected beauty, more alive than she ever was here. And that smile I will behold once again. Oh, what a day that will be!

After all what was the first coming about? Was it not to rescue us, save us, secure us from penalty and power of sin so that one day we would be freed from the presence of sin at His second coming? The prediction concerning that baby born long ago in that manger was that “He would save His people from their sin”. Justification, sanctification, and one day glorification would be achieved through His amazing birth, perfect life, sacrificial death, miraculous resurrection, and glorious second coming. That’s salvation!

What does the Father want me to do? Live a life filled with hope so others might have the same hope. Hope inspires hope.
The meaning of the word ‘hope’ has been tarnished by its abuse and misuse in the political arena in the past few years. Hope is not some pompous, worn out, ridiculous political slogan pronounced by a less than honest politician who will say anything to get elected to office and who has no chance of delivering on the promise. Hope in the Bible is about having confident expectation. Our God is a God of a real and living Hope! Our God is faithful and always keeps His promises. In Christ, our hope has been secured eternally and our God is not a man that He should lie!

As David would write in the reading of the Psalms for today…”For who is God, but the Lord?” He is equipped with strength, He is the shield of our salvation, His gentleness toward us has been made great, and He is the only one who can give us victory over that last great enemy of humanity…death. And as surely as He secured the life of His servant David, so in Christ He has secured ours! The Lord of Advent is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, our God, our refuge, our shield, our horn of salvation, and our stronghold! When “the cords of death encompassed” David and “the cords of Sheol (the grave) entangled him” the Lord saved him. (Read Psalm 18) David’s hope in the Lord was fulfilled.

What does the Father want me to do today? Live out that hope! Encourage others. Be hope for someone who needs to see hope of Christ incarnate today.

One day Jesus will return with all His Saints for indeed He is the God of the living not the dead. Hope lives!

One day, in the not too distant future, courtesy of Jesus, Nettie and I are going to have a big ole time with Him! Oh, and a bunch of other Saints too.

Now that is real hope that results in a real change of heart!

Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

D. Sutton