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!