Advent 2017 – Day 1
If you have looked around you, signs of the Christmas season are everywhere. Colorful lights decorate houses and trees, malls are full of frantic shoppers, carols float through the air. Children wait impatiently for the holiday to arrive. But before Christmas arrives, an important season must come first. It is called Advent, a time of waiting for the birth of Christ.
Every year my family celebrates this waiting period by focusing on a different theme that prepares us for the arrival of our Savior. And this year? The theme is “Waiting for God to Appear.”
As we begin, please think of something you have long desired. It might be a job opportunity, or a relative coming to know the Lord, or a need for physical healing. As we go through these devotionals on this theme, keep your dream in mind.
Thousands of years ago, God almost lost his patience. In Num. 14:11-12, when the people of Israel rebelled in the wilderness, he said, “How long will these people reject me? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? I will disown them and destroy them with a plague!” Just as he felt back in the time of Noah, God was tired of waiting and ready to destroy all his people. Thankfully for you and me, the Lord resisted that temptation.
If you find it hard to wait for your heart’s desire, remember that God himself understands your frustration. When you ask, “How long, Lord?” you echo his own question.
So join us for the next 24 days as we explore this theme of waiting. Come back again tomorrow!
Advent 2017 – Day 2
Are Christmas packages starting to appear under your tree? You can see them. You might even shake them. You can lift them and test the weight. But you know you can’t open them yet. Welcome back to the second of our Advent devotionals on “Waiting for God to Appear.”
In Genesis 6-9, Noah learned what it meant to wait. The Lord warned him that judgment was coming and told Noah to build a boat to save his family. Obedient, Noah set about building an ark. And then he waited. He waited while his neighbors mocked his ark. He waited as animals of all types walked aboard. He waited another whole week. Finally the rains came. The clouds let loose and water poured down for forty days and forty nights until the whole earth flooded.
And then? Noah waited some more.
He spent five more months cooped up with all those animals until the ark settled on the top of a mountain. He waited another two and a half months as the waters subsided. After another forty days, Noah hoped he could leave the ark; he sent out a dove but it came back because water was still everywhere. Two more weeks went by. And he waited. A total of ten and a half months had gone by. The water was drying up. He could see land out his window. Still he waited. Two more months passed by before God allowed him to leave the ark.
What is your dream for the future? Can you wait until God’s voice tells you to move? Waiting is so much more than simply sitting idle. It is active obedience while waiting for God to move, not us.
Advent 2017 – Day 3
Welcome back to the third in this series of Advent devotionals on the theme “Waiting for God to Appear.”
When my children were little, they found it harder and harder to wait as the holiday drew near. We agreed that they would each be allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve. One year my daughter chose a package which I knew only contained lightbulbs for a toy wrapped in a separate package. I tried to convince her to wait to open the first package, but the more I urged her to pick something else, the more she was convinced the gift in her hand must be the best.
Abraham had a promise from the Lord that he would one day have a child, and when Sarah suggested he have a child through her servant Hagar, it seemed like a great way to hurry along God’s promise. We all know the result of that effort, the child Ishmael. The middle-East has been torn in two ever since.
Abraham eventually got Isaac, the son God promised, and my daughter eventually got her real gift, an Easy Bake oven, the next day. But both of them had suffered disappointment earlier when they chose to hurry the process of waiting.
Remember what Paul wrote to the Romans (8:25): “If you already have something, you don’t need to hope for it, but if we look forward to something we don’t have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently.”
Don’t give up! Keep on waiting for the best!
Advent 2017 – Day 4
Have you ever waited and waited for something only to discover the result is not what you expected? My mother was an avid gardener. Early in December one year, as a joke, my dad bought her an enormous bag of peat moss. He wrapped it, tied on a big red bow and placed it under the Christmas tree. For weeks Mom imagined the huge package contained something wonderful like a fur coat. Can you feel her disappointment when, after all that anticipation, she discovered it was only soil for the garden?
Abraham’s son, Jacob, experienced a similar feeling. He fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Rachel and worked like a slave for seven years in order to marry her. Then on the wedding night, he discovered he’d been tricked. Instead of Rachel, Jacob got her older sister. He felt cheated, especially when he had to work another seven years to get the bride he originally chose.
Yet, God has a purpose in making us wait. Jacob felt like he waited those first seven years for nothing, but little did he know that in Leah he got a far greater blessing than he got through Rachel. The line of our Savior, Jesus Christ, flows not through the line of Rachel but through the line of Leah. Through the unloved wife, we all are blessed!
Psalm 22:5 says, “[Our ancestors] put their trust in you and were never disappointed.” When we put our hopes and dreams in God’s hands, we will never be disappointed.
Advent 2017 – Day 5
My husband Gene wanted a new desk, but he had to wait until Christmas when I gave him one as a gift. Unfortunately, the desk came unassembled, and Gene had to spend many painful hours reading instructions, inserting screws, and gluing parts before he could enjoy the benefits of his gift.
Thousands of years ago, Jacob’s son Joseph received a gift far more wonderful than a desk. He received a promise from God that one day his eleven brothers and even his parents would bow down before him. Little did he guess how long he would have to wait until that promise would be fulfilled, nor did he imagine how much pain he would have to go through before he could realize the benefits. He endured years of humiliation as a slave and then more years of injustice in prison before he at last rose to be the second most powerful man in all of Egypt.
Sometimes the route to fulfillment of our hopes and dreams requires that we first pass through difficult and painful experiences. The apostle Peter understood this when he encouraged the early churches that faced persecution. He wrote, “These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. . . . If your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise, and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
If your hopes have not yet been fulfilled, is your faith strong enough to endure painful times before God eventually answers your prayers?
Advent 2017 – Day 6
My grandson Josiah, age 12, is already saving up to buy his first car. He has great dreams. One day he says it will be a BMW. Another day it will be a sports coupe. But he will have to wait for years before his dream is fulfilled, and he will first need to learn to drive! He needs training and preparation before he realizes his dream.
Do you remember the story of Moses? He was born into the home of slaves but ended up being raised as the son of Pharaoh. And just as he began to flex his muscles of authority, tragedy hit. He murdered an Egyptian man who was beating up an Israelite slave. Afraid for his life, Moses fled into the wilderness. All his hopes and dreams were sidelined. For forty years he lived in the desert and tended sheep, the lowliest occupation in the Egyptian hierarchy of careers. Moses had to wait.
Moses, not knowing the future, may have felt those forty years as a shepherd were a waste of time. But God used them to prepare him as a leader of his people. Hadn’t he already been trained as a leader by Pharaoh? Yes, but Moses needed to learn other qualities of leadership, including humility. He also needed to learn skills on how to survive in the desert. God used those years in the wilderness as a time of preparation for leading his people.
As you wait for your desire to be fulfilled, in what ways might God be preparing you for His future plan?
Advent 2017 – Day 7
Welcome back for the next in our 2017 series of Advent devotionals on the theme of “Waiting for God to Appear.”
This year, my husband and I look forward to celebrating our first Christmas in our new apartment. We lived in our former home for over forty years. During those forty years, we raised three children who are now grown, married, and raising the next generation. Forty years is a long time!
After Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, none of them anticipated that they would spend forty years waiting to enter the Promised Land. But they refused to listen to the Lord, and their disobedience came with consequences. The Lord forced them to wander in the wilderness. They had to wait for their Promise as years turned into decades. As with my family, new generations of Hebrews were born. Those children grew to adulthood, married, and had more babies. The Lord watched to see if the new generation would learn obedience.
In Hebrews 5:8, the author says, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” If Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering, is it any surprise that we too might face difficult times as we wait for our Promised Land?
Think of your own trek through patience. How has the Lord been teaching you obedience?
Advent 2017 – Day 9
The holiday malls are full of sales. Have you driven across town to purchase an item only to see it advertised the next day at your local mall or on-line at a lower price? If you had waited one more day, you could have saved yourself a substantial amount of trouble.
King Saul was not a patient man. The armies of the Philistines and the army of Israel were facing off. Vastly outnumbered, the terrified army of Israel hid in caves, cisterns, rocks and even tombs. The priest Samuel had told Saul to wait for a week at which time Samuel would join him in a sacrifice to the Lord before the battle.
On the seventh day, however, Samuel had not yet appeared. Saul feared his soldiers would desert him if they had to wait indefinitely, so he went ahead and offered a burnt sacrifice himself.
Just as Saul was finishing the sacrifice on that seventh day, Samuel appeared. “What have you done?” he asked. “Because you disobeyed God’s command, your reign as king must end. The Lord has already chosen someone else to take your place.” You will find the rest of the story in 1 Samuel 13. If Saul had waited only a few more hours, that story might have turned out very differently.
If God tells us clearly to wait and we opt to plunge ahead instead, we rebel against His authority. What does impatience reveal about your attitude toward God? What costly consequences might ensue if you do not wait?
Advent 2017 – Day 10
Welcome back to the next in our Advent series on the theme of “waiting.”
As the youngest son of Jesse, David did not have great prospects for wealth and fame. He was, after all, only a shepherd boy. Then Samuel anointed David to be the next king. Immediately David defeated Goliath, he met Saul and he served the king daily. He became best friends with the crown prince. Army officers admired him; women adored him. Events seemed to be moving him rapidly into line as the next king of Israel.
Then the plan stalled. Saul became jealous and twice tried to kill David. When that failed, the king encouraged others to attack the younger man. For over a decade, David fled from the armies of Saul.
Year after year went by as the shepherd boy waited in the wilderness with his motley band of ruffians.
Just as Saul had two opportunities to kill David, David had two chances to kill Saul. David’s companions encouraged him to take advantage of those opportunities to step up to claim the throne, but David declined. He refused to hurry God’s plan.
Then, when everything seemed darkest – Saul had massive armies behind him, had several sons standing ready as heirs apparent, and had a treasury of financial resources – in a single night the Lord removed all those obstacles and opened the door for David to become king.
What difficult circumstances are forcing you to wait? Do you wonder if God will ever come through for you? Trust me: When God decides to move, He will remove every obstacle and His timing will be perfect.
Advent 2017 – Day 11
Have you ever ordered a Christmas gift on line and then waited and waited for your order to appear? Everything was paid for, but the package never arrived. Sometimes the person lost the order in cyberspace, but other times the person at the other end never got around to putting the package in the mail. How do you know when to wait and when to stop waiting and act? The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote there is a time for everything, including a time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
In 2 Kings 12, we see a story about just such a situation. Soon after young King Joash came to the throne, he ordered the priests to collect offerings to repair God’s Temple in Jerusalem. The priests gladly collected the money, but they never carried through on the repairs. By the 23rd year of Joash’s reign, the Temple was still not repaired!
After waiting more than two decades and watching the priests spend the money on their own needs instead of God’s house, Joash finally called them to account. He said, “Enough! From now on, all the money must be spent on getting the Temple in good condition.” He no longer left the work to the priests. He hired contractors to carry out the repairs.
When delay is due to sin and selfishness, we need to stop waiting and speak up!
PS: I head in for major spinal surgery today. Prayers are welcome! My husband Gene will continue to post these devotionals for me while I am in the hospital!
Advent 2017 – Day 15
During December, it sometimes seems that the whole world stops its normal routine and shifts its focus to shopping and office parties and eating. I, for example, put my normal writing projects on hold so that I can focus on preparing these devotional thoughts during Advent.’
When the people of Israel went into captivity in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah told them that they would return to Judah in 70 years. That was a long time to wait and to set aside normal routines, but the question was, what should they do during that waiting period?
The answer was clearly stated among Jeremiah’s prophecies. In Jer. 29:7, he said, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will have welfare.”
What should you and I be doing while we wait for God to act on our hopes and dreams? What should we be doing here on earth when we know that one day we will be headed to heaven? The answer is the same for us as for the exiles in Babylon: seek the good of the city, state and nation where we live now.
Advent 2017 – Day 16
(Due to my coming home from the hospital yesterday, Advent Day 15 was late being posted. You will find it below today’s post.)
When I was a child, our neighbor was one of the first to own an electric carving knife. He showed it off proudly every chance he had, so the next Christmas my mother bought him an electric carving fork. The fork had an impressive electric cord that extended from the handle with a plug at the end. Mind you, the fork did nothing. The cord sent no electric current to the tines, but it did give the impression of power. Otherwise it was useless.
When Esther entered the harem of King Ahasuerus, she may have felt as useless as that electric carving fork. For a whole year she sat with the other beauty candidates going through beauty treatments, six months of treatments with oil of myrrh and then six more months involving spices and cosmetics. During that time she did not even see the king. And after the king selected her as his queen in the seventh year of his reign, she waited another five years without a clue why God had placed her in her role as queen.
At last the plot unfolded. Haman planned to kill all the Jews in Susa. When Esther’s cousin Mordecai learned of the plot, he approached Esther saying, “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for just such a time as this?” (4:14)
Do you ever feel like your time spent waiting is wasted? Do you feel like you are useless while others are busy about the Lord’s work? Rest assured that God has a plan and will call you into action when he is ready.
Advent 2017 – Day 17
Every year, starting in January, I start praying about a theme for the next set of Advent devotionals. Sometimes the Lord allows me to wait until mid-November before revealing the theme, and other times he tells me early. This year’s theme came to me in late Spring. But the key element here is prayer. Before I even begin writing, I have prayed long and hard about choosing the topic.
Nehemiah was serving the king and living a routine life in Babylon when his brother Hanani returned from a trip to Jerusalem. Hanani described how weak and vulnerable the city was because its walls had been destroyed and its gates were burned.
Shocked and saddened, Nehemiah wanted to take action. But before he spoke to the king, he paused to fast and pray for four months. He might have waited even longer, but the king initiated a conversation about what caused Nehemiah to be so sad. Sending up one more brief prayer, Nehemiah revealed his burden for the city of Jerusalem. The result was the king’s support for the entire project. Nehemiah left his court duties, arrived in Jerusalem and less than two months later, the entire wall was rebuilt!
Are you waiting for God to act? Why not use this time for prayer so that you will be ready when he calls you to action?
Advent 2017 – Day 18
If you did a survey on the street about key characters in the Christmas story, the name Zachariah would not likely rise to the top of the list, yet in Luke’s account, his story fills almost half of the first chapter!
An angel appeared to Zechariah and told him that he would have a baby and his son would prepare the way for the Messiah. Since Zechariah and his wife were both already senior citizens, Zechariah expressed some doubt. “How can I know this will happen?” The angel replied that the priest would be unable to speak until the promise was fulfilled. Many commentators feel the priest was also deaf during this period.
So Zechariah settled in to wait. Nine long months inched by. Finally the baby was born, but Zechariah’s voice did not return. Day after day, Zechariah woke up still unable to talk. He likely reviewed in his mind all the angel had said. Would he be without a voice until this child grew up and actually led his people back to the Lord?
The truth is, Zechariah had no idea when his wait would be over and his voice would return.
Zechariah did not waste his time during this waiting period. The list of cross references in your Bible next to Luke 1:68-79 is like a radioactive tracer indicating the prophetic passages the priest read while preparing for his son’s birth: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and even Malachi. When Zechariah’s voice returned on the 8th day, he was ready to teach his son, John the Baptist, about the coming Messiah.
As you are waiting for God to answer your prayer, why not use the time to study His Word?
Advent 2017 – Day 19
If you took that man-on-the-street survey of key characters in the Christmas story, one name at the top of your list would be that of Mary. She too learned to wait.
Just as Zechariah sat on the sidelines for nine long months throughout his wife’s pregnancy, Mary waited through nine long months of her own pregnancy. People in town whispered about her condition. She faced anxiety as to whether Joseph would reject her. Religious leaders could have opted to stone her for possible infidelity.
For Mary, the wait was difficult but relief came as she was able to spend a portion of that time with her cousin Elizabeth. Visiting Zechariah and his wife, Mary was at last able to speak freely of having seen an angel. Her cousin had to understand: After all, had not Zechariah had the same experience? No one else alive at that time could have shared such an experience. No angel had brought a message from God for almost 400 years.
As you wait on God during this season, look around. Who else shares your experience? Is it easier to wait when you have company on the road?
Advent 2017 – Day 21
Every year, Christmas arrives predictably on December 25th, a fact which makes our holiday waiting a bit more bearable. At least we know when the waiting period will end. However, when I submit a book proposal, I have no idea when a publisher will get back to me. When you pray for a neighbor to accept Christ, you have no idea when your prayers will be answered. We cannot see into the future. If we knew when the end would be in sight, waiting might be just a bit easier.
Jesus laid aside his divine omniscience as he came to earth, but he had a general sense of the future. When his mother asked him to solve a problem at the wedding in Cana, he told her, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 3:4) When his brothers challenged him to attend a festival in Jerusalem, he said, “I will not go up to this festival because my time has not yet come.” (John 7:6) He waited.
Jesus waited, but not, as children long for Christmas, with excitement and anticipation of gifts. Jesus knew that the “hour” that lay ahead of him would bring great pain and sorrow. As the time of his death drew closer, he warned his disciples that he would soon leave them. “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) In the garden he prayed in agony, “Father, the hour has come.”
To get to the joy of the resurrection, he had to first pass through the pain of the cross. What about your hope for the future? Are you ready to face the pain or even suffering that may lie between you and your dream?
Advent 2017 – Day 22
We are almost through Advent and anxious for Christmas to arrive! Our period of waiting will soon be over! Yet Advent has been a good time to slow down and remember all God’s blessings
When Saul traveled on the road to Damascus, he was in a hurry. He had a full agenda of things he planned to accomplish there, including persecuting the followers of Jesus. Suddenly, he saw a bright light and heard a voice calling his name. He encountered Christ and was struck blind. There on the road, all his plans stopped dead in their tracks. God forced him to wait.
We can only imagine how Saul felt, sitting in darkness and wondering when his eyesight might return. He had no idea how long this blindness would remain. Forced to slow down, he experienced the joy of knowing Christ, but also the regret for all those whom he had beaten and cast in jail. Saul remembered all the pain he had inflicted on others. He likely wondered what lay ahead, and if God could ever use a sinner like him.
As you wait for your own hopes to become reality, perhaps God is forcing you to slow down. Take some time today to consider ways you may have hurt others in the past. Ask God to remove your own blindness and then confess any selfishness and pride.
Advent 2017 – Day 23
The malls are full of last-minute shoppers racing hither and yon, trying to find just the right gifts – or any gift! – for a boss or a friend or family member. Do you ever feel like you are the only one waiting, while the rest of the world rushes on past you?
Scripture assures us that you and I are not the only ones in a holding pattern. In Romans 8:21,22, Paul tells us that all nature is anxious to be released from the curse of Adam. It groans as it waits for freedom from death and decay. And then Rev. 6:9-11 speaks of souls of martyrs that rest under God’s altar and who also await redemption. They cry out, “How long will it be, Lord, before you avenge our blood?” And God tells them to wait a little longer.
In Rev. 7:1-3, we learn that even the angels await release. The Spirit tells the angels, “Wait! Don’t hurt the land…until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.”
If you are tired of waiting for God to act, take heart and remember that your wait is short, almost a pittance, compared to these others who have waited for hundreds, even thousands of years for God to complete his eternal plan. But one day we will all rejoice together in the throne room of God!
Advent 2017 – Day 24
Waiting is never easy or fun as we have seen throughout this period of Advent. But Christmas is here at last! May God bless you. My gift to you today is to pass along a favorite poem, author unknown but appreciated. Read it aloud and enjoy its words of wisdom as God explains the benefits of the times when you and I sit on the sidelines.
Desperately, helplessly, longingly,
Quietly, patiently, lovingly,
I pled and I wept
for a clue to my fate,
And the Master so gently said,
“Child, you must wait.”
You say wait, my indignant reply.
Lord, I need answers;
I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened?
Or have you not heard?
By Faith, I have asked and am
claiming Your Word.
My future and all to which
I can relate
hangs in the balance, and
You tell me to WAIT?
I’m needing a ‘yes,’
a go-ahead sign,
or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.
And Lord, You promised
that if we believe
we need but to ask,
and we shall receive.
And Lord, I’ve been asking,
and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking!
I need a reply!
Then quietly, softly,
I learned of my fate
as my Master replied
So, I slumped in my chair,
defeated and taut
and grumbled to God,
“So I’m waiting…for what?”
He seemed, then, to kneel,
and His eyes wept with mine,
And tenderly said,
“I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens
and darken the sun,
I could raise the dead
and cause mountains to run.
All you seek, I could give, and
pleased you would be.
You would have all you want – But
you wouldn’t know Me.
You’d not know the depth of My love
for each saint;
You’d not know the power
that I give to the faint;
You’d not learn to see through the
clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by
knowing I’m there;
You’d not know the joy of
resting in Me
When darkness and silence
were all you could see.
You’d never experience that
fullness of love
As the peace of My Spirit
descends like a dove;
You’d know that I give and
save…(for a start),
But you’d not know the depth
or beat of My heart.
The glow of My comfort
late into the night,
The faith that I give
when you walk without sight,
The depth that’s beyond getting
just what you asked
Of an infinite God that makes what
you have LAST.
You’d never know,
should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that
“My grace is sufficient for Thee.”
Yes, your dreams for your loved
ones overnight would come true,
But oh, the Loss!
If I lost what I’m doing in you!
So be silent, My Child,
and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts
is to get to know Me.
And though oft’ may My answers
seem terribly late,
My most precious answer
of all is still,