Advent: Week 4

This Sunday, December 20, 2020, we make our way toward Love as it is the 4th Week of Advent. I know some celebrate this journey, week in and week out, and others don’t. But no matter if it is observed or not, the highlight focus on Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are paramount in this season. They help prepare us for the incredible, miraculous, supernatural arrival of Christ’s arrival, here, on planet earth, to fulfill the will of God.

Love is Who God is. It’s certainly one of His primary characteristics. Yes, He is also Holy. In these 2 chief descriptions, we can learn and know so much about Him. During Advent and in Christmas, He displays these and we witness the amazing grace that flows from His heart, plan, purpose, and will. It was spoken of hundreds of years before Christ came. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “A child will be born for us, a son will be given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. He will be named: Wonderful! Counselor! Mighty God! Everlasting Father! Prince of Peace! His government and peace will have unlimited growth. He will establish David’s Throne and Kingdom. He will uphold it with justice and righteousness, now and forever” (Isaiah 9, vv.6-7).

Isaiah and the people, along with generations before them, would not live to see this fulfilled. But it was, in Christ Jesus, when He was born. His advent, His arrival, fulfilled prophecies. Most importantly, however, His coming began the process of restoring the relationship that God so desired. It was, it is, and it will always be about God’s love for us (for you, for me, and for every other person He has/will ever give life to). No one is excluded. No one needs to be on the outside looking in. That is good news…the best news of all time!

In this Christmas Season, seek Him and you will find His love. It has been poured out. It has overflowed. Perhaps you don’t know where to start? Maybe your past, your life, hasn’t been so filled of love to this point? More good news: In believing, in coming to Him, in trusting Him as Lord and Savior–He will reorder and restart your life no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what baggage you’re carrying. Today is the day! God is love and His love wins…every time.

Merry Christmas!

Advent 2020

You don’t need me or anyone else telling you it’s been quite a year (2020, that is). Just one year ago, no one could have predicted what was coming and what we would face just mere weeks into 2020. Pandemic. Novel coronavirus. Shutdowns. Slow the spread. Quarantines. Life as we know it was shifted upside-down and on its head.

All of a sudden, decisions had to be made. Ones that impacted families in ways that had never been experienced before. They surrounded just about every aspect of life, school, and work. No textbook, no written procedure, and no experience in this type of situation has left so many wondering, “Will things ever be the same again, and when will some degree of normalcy ever return?”

I have taken the past few days to reflect on Advent, and how this very season we are in now, can help us (if we will allow it to).

I think of Joseph and Mary, and what they endured some 2,000 years ago in a season of life that presented deep challenge at nearly every turn. A Jewish couple living under the oppression of the Roman Empire. A dangerous journey, on foot, for the purpose of a census so they could be counted and pay tax. News that was exciting, life changing, yet, terrifying and worrisome at the same time. Ponder it for a moment.

The great news that God was sending His Son, that favor had come to Mary and Joseph, and that they would be a part of God’s divine plan to save the world. But in the world, in the systems of the world, we know: A girl who became pregnant, without first being married, was subject to severe punishment under Jewish Law. The punishment was stoning–it was a death sentence.

Why are you bringing this up? – you may be asking.

Because it is Advent, and as we translate this word back, we are reminded that it means: longing, preparing, and waiting. Advent is about the world and the people of the world, waiting for the Long-Expected Messiah. The One Who could, and would, deliver them and provide everything needed. He would be the One Who would both redeem and restore the relationship that was severed with God.

Today, we are between Advents. That is, the 1st Advent of Jesus has already occurred. It is a fact. He arrived on that first Christmas and fulfilled all things that He came to fulfill. Now, we await His 2nd Advent, which could come at any time. We are between the two Advents. Our charge…our marching orders, if you will, is this: We must be prepared and ready because He could literally come at any moment.

So, are you ready? Have you done the right preparation? Do you even know Him?

It is my deepest prayer that if you don’t know Him–that you will come to know Him intimately, passionately, and with zeal [go look that word up]. Don’t allow another day, hour, minute to pass without Him in your life. We all need hope, peace, joy, and love, and the Lord delivers like no one else can or will. In this Advent Season, do what must be done to make the Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. He is more than able–are you willing?

More to come…stay tuned…

Merry Christmas!

Porter

No Fear, Here.

35 That evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side. 36 Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus along in a boat just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A violent windstorm came up. The waves were breaking into the boat so that it was quickly filling up. 38 But he was sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to die?” 39 Then he got up, ordered the wind to stop, and said to the sea, “Be still, absolutely still!” The wind stopped blowing, and the sea became very calm. 40 He asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith yet?” 41 They were overcome with fear and asked each other, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the sea obey him!” (Mark 4, vv.35-41)

There is no doubt fear is one of the enemy’s most often used “go-to” in order to get us off course. Sometimes the progression follows this model: Worry > Anxiety > Stress > Fear. Sooner rather than later, it may even seem like we are frozen, under a cloud of darkness, wondering what we should do, if anything.

For several months now, much has been going on all around us. No one can (or would) deny it. All you have to do is read the paper, follow some blogs, watch the news, or engage in a chat with a friend. There are stress points and things we should be concerned about. Many are asking questions that we may, this side of glory, never have answers for.

There are conflicts, crimes, deaths, diseases, divisions, financial woes, natural disasters, persecutions, terrorist acts, unemployment, and wars. We wonder about what kind of nation and world we will pass on to future generations. We worry about our families, our friends, everything familiar, and life itself. It is seen and observed daily, in real time.

But what does worry add? What can fear, really do? Jesus was consistent in His direct confrontation on “fear,” when He stated this question: “Can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6, v.27). He goes on there, in that segment of The Sermon on the Mount, to call out some of the things we may/might/do worry about. He asks us the same question(s) today.

Most of us have struggled (or are struggling) with fear, of some sort. It would be almost unnatural and impossible not to. But through a saving faith and with the undeniable presence of God helping me, He has taught me that the spiral to fear need not happen. The truth: He is in control; He’s got it. Now, that may not be popular or comfy-cozy at first or second bite, but it is true. Either all things are in His hands or nothing is. I’ve decided it’s all things, and I’m sticking with it.

I want to assure you…and myself too…that no matter where you are in or on your faith journey, that in time and only with God’s help, as you grow in His grace and learn more about Him: anxious thoughts will diminish; worry will descend; stress levels will be brought down; and although fear may come in and be experienced from time to time, it will not have control. With God in you, and working through you, you won’t be moved or paralyzed.

The Word of God gives life and truth, in fullness. His Word does not come back void. Often times, our belief is tested in our response: the choices we make, the decisions we cast, in the priorities we give. While we may have no idea what is coming or what the future may hold, we know the One Who does, and He knows us. Paul writes in Romans 8, v.31: “What should we say in response to this? If God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?” He gives the clear answer starting in v.32, and I encourage you to read it and saturate on it, that it would seep deeply in your very soul.

Let us be grateful, and humbled, that God is for us, because He is!

Christmas 2019

The Word records this in Matthew, chapter 2: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, when Herod was king. After Jesus’ birth, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem” (v.1). Separated by some 2,000 years from Jesus’ first advent, the wise still seek Him.

I find myself very grateful for the fact that each Advent Season and with each Christmas, we are brought back to the miracle record of God sending His Son, to us, to restore the relationship that we busted apart. Proactively and independent of anything we have done, God took the initiative and poured out His grace and love in a supernatural way. It was, and is, freely given to all who would believe and receive.

Particularly interesting to me, in the birth narrative of Jesus Christ, is Joseph. Sometimes he is relegated to a less important role, overshadowed by the others that we have in the Nativity scene. But Joseph, coupled with his very presence and role, should remind us of some very important things:

  • Joseph was an average, everyday person. He was a carpenter by trade and he was a man of faith. He had lineage for sure, but nothing in his life stood out. He was not a famous person; he wasn’t wealthy by any stretch; and he had some issues to work through so that God could use Him (see Matthew 1, vv.18-25).
  • In relation to that portion in Matthew 1, Joseph would have to humble himself and overcome the anger, bitterness, and resentment he must have felt when he first learned that Mary was pregnant, before they were married. He knew the child was not his, yet, he wanted to do things honorably – knowing what it would do to Mary, if uncovered.
  • When the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, the message was very similar to what the Angel delivered to many others through history: “Do not fear!” or  “Do not be afraid!” That changed his perspective, and from that time on, he did what he was commanded to do.
  • Joseph was faithful in a very difficult and hard situation. In short, Joseph was obedient to the purpose, to the vision, to the will of the Lord.

The rest of the story is recorded, even though we don’t hear much more about Joseph in the Gospels. He took Mary to be his wife and he was the earthly father to Jesus, who had come. Ponder this: Joseph humbly adopted God’s only Son so that we, you and I, could be adopted into God’s family. What an incredible legacy.

God is faithful! Know that you can trust Him and rely on Him even when it appears like success is the furthest thing from your life’s journey. Know that God’s definition of success compared to the world’s, are often two totally different things. It can be linked and the Lord can surely use secular things to reveal deeper, spiritual truths. He can do anything He so desires and wills. But don’t allow your life to be defined by things of the world.

Christmas is a time for celebration, for humility, and for a reset. Perhaps more than anything, we should give God complete access into our lives so that we can assess how His light, His truth, His will is impacting us and transforming us into the image of His Son. Because in the end…whether we go to Him or He returns first…this is all that’s going to matter.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. May you know the hope, love, joy, and peace that He alone gives and continues to pour out. Let’s be grateful, for God is with us!

Porter

 

Renewed

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12, v.2)

Every once in a while, you get asked a question that will take you a bit off guard. I should qualify that: the longer you’ve been around, the more prone you become to questions that can seemingly come out of no where, and occasionally, take you aback. Once such question came my way, yesterday, about 15 minutes after our corporate worship ended.

As I was greeting people, interacting, and after handing off a precious 3-month old baby, it came soon after. Here is how it was presented to me, after delivering a Message on “Being a Holy Church” and sharing in The Lord’s Table, together: “Do you think it is possible that some who call themsevles believers go through all the motions, do and say all the right things, but haven’t made Jesus the Lord of their life?”

My direct response: “As heartbreaking as that is to even think about, yes – it is possible and it does happen.” Then I offered this, “We must pray that we do everything we can, with God’s help, to eliminate its possibility.”

I pondered that on the way home from worship on Sunday, through the afternoon and evening at different points, and here I am writing about it on a Monday afternoon. I must say: it is one of the things that will keep you up and weigh heavily on your heart. Not that we, any of us really, are responsible for the actions or inactions of others. We can’t decide for anyone else, although at times we would very much like to do so. Yet, we have a desperate, urgent responsibility to magnify Jesus Christ and be His hands and feet to a lost and fallen world, at every instant. We are His Church, His representatives, His brothers and sisters charged with taking His mission outwardly and giving it away. We are delivery and logistics. We are to be “broken bread and poured out wine in His Name,” as Oswald Chambers states.

How do we do this? How can it possibly be accomplished in an effective way?

Read that passage again, at the top: Romans 12, v.2We have to be renewed, we have to be transformed. We have to be reborn by and into the Spirit of the living God, by way of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We are renewed in His image; that is how! Because it is at this point where we can fulfill our God-given purposes, according to His will (not ours).

Together, we are the Church: His body, His bride, His children, and His people.

Together, we honor Him, love Him, serve Him, and worship Him.

Together, we are available to each other, build one another up, pray for the needs of others, and serve alongside our brothers and sisters to further His Kingdom. Sure – we do much more than this, but this is a beginning. It is to be continued moment by moment, day by day, week in and week out.

It begins with being renewed, allowing the transforming power of God to make us into who He truly desires us to be. Our God is faithful and His invitation has been extended to you and to me. Let me encourage you: It will change your life, forever (in the best way possible). I’ll leave you with this passage, and I invite you to reach out at any time if you would like to learn more: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, so that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life” (John 3, v.16). Now, insert your name where “whosoever” appears. It is that personal, and it is that fulfilling.

Be blessed in the renewal only He can deliver and give!

Porter