Advent 2018

Advent 2018 – Day 1

Each year for over three decades, our family has celebrated a season called Advent. We follow a devotional theme every day for the 24 days leading up to Christmas. Please join us in this latest journey here at my website!

Advent is about waiting for things about to come; it looks to the future. With that in mind, the theme for Advent 2018 is: God’s ‘I WILL’ promises.

I want to begin with an ‘I WILL’ promise that lays a strong foundation for all the other promises that we will look at in the days ahead. Ironically, instead of being an “I will,” this first promise is an ‘I will NOT.’ In scripture, God repeatedly makes promises about things he will do, but in Psalm 89:33,34, God says,

I will never stop loving [David]

Nor let my promise to him fail.

I will not break my covenant,

I will not take back a single word I said.

Promises are only as good as the person making them. If the person will not carry through and fulfill those promises, the oaths are worthless. But we have a God who does not change his mind according to his mood and whimsy. He is not capricious. Our God keeps his word. As one of his prophets once said, “God is not man that he should lie. He is not human, that he should change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried through?” (Num. 23:19)

We can rely on our heavenly Father to make good on every one of his promises. As you prepare for Christmas during this new Advent season, please pause and remember to rest on this solid foundation: God has promised he will never to stop loving us. That is a promise he will keep forever!


Advent 2018 – Day 2

Today is the second in our series of Advent devotionals on the theme, God’s ‘I WILL’ promises. I am glad you returned!

Have you ever given your word that you would do something? Last year I said that I would help with an ESL class, but when the Fall arrived, I was experiencing intense back pain and unable to stand erect in a classroom. Sadly, I had to renege on my promise to teach and thus I had to disappoint the person in charge.

God also has given his word and, as we saw yesterday, he never backs out of his commitments. But he also has determined that come what may, he will accomplish his purposes. In Isaiah 46:10, he says:
Only I can tell you what is going to happen even before it happens.
Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.

Later, in Isaiah 55:11 he adds, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

And what is his purpose? In Isaiah 45:23, he explains, “I have sworn by my own name, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to my name.”

Is God accomplishing his purpose in your life? Have you bowed before him today and given him your word of loyalty to Jesus?


Advent 2018 – Day 3

Welcome back for the third in our series of Advent devotionals on the theme of God’s ‘I WILL’ promises.

The other evening a young woman visited our apartment, and as she and I talked, we each shared how we had just completed our Christmas shopping. It wasn’t even December, but our gifts were bought, wrapped and even shipped! We patted ourselves on the back for being so on top of things! And yes, there was a measure of pride that we had completed this daunting task well ahead of most of our friends.

I don’t think the Lord worries too much about when we complete our holiday shopping, but God has no pleasure in human pride. In 2 Chronicles 7:14,15, we find another of his I WILL promises:

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.
I will listen to every prayer made in this place.

The antidote to pride is humility. And the reward of humility is the promise that God will hear our cry and the assurance that he will forgive us.

What better gift at Christmas can we receive than to know that the Lord of all the Universe is waiting to listen to our humble prayers and is ready to lift any burden of guilt from our shoulders! Have you sent him a thank-you note?


Advent 2018 – Day 4

Thanks for coming back to join me for the fourth of our Advent devotionals on the theme of God’s ‘I WILL’ promises.

Last year at the beginning of December, I was awaiting major spinal surgery. The pain was intense, keeping me awake long into the night. I used a walker. My back was bent at 45 degrees. Then, over a period of almost seven hours, my surgeon operated. With skill, he fused five of my vertebrae and slowly constructed a cage of titanium rods and nuts and bolts. He carved out space to ease pressure on the nerves passing through the compressed spinal column. After the operation, I was at last free to stand up straight without pain. It felt like a Christmas miracle!

But God does even more amazing surgery! In Ezekiel 36:26, he promises to do open heart surgery:

I will give you a new heart with new and right desires,
and I will put a new spirit in you.
I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new obedient heart.

When doctors in the operating room perform heart surgery, they work hard to avoid infections, match blood types, and avoid rejection. But none of those problems arise in God’s surgical procedure. His Son is the true universal donor.

Before a patient receives a new heart, we all know that someone else had to die to make the surgery possible. God’s own Son came to earth at Christmas. Jesus grew up, taught his disciples, and performed a multitude of miracles. Finally, at the cross, he gave up his own heart that we might live. He will put a new heart in all those who believe!

Have you experienced God’s open heart surgery? Have you thanked the Lord for his gift?


Advent 2018 – Day 5

Here we are again, now on the fifth day of our Advent series on God’s “I WILL” promises. My hope is that these brief thoughts will prepare your heart for the holiday ahead!

Have you ever tried to memorize scripture? When I was younger and my mind more nimble, I memorized the gospel of John. This year, as I recovered from spinal surgery, I determined to rememorize the same gospel. I only got through the first eight chapters, but I can attest to the fact that it was a lot harder task this time around. As fast as I memorized one chapter, another slipped away.

If you have a hard time memorizing scripture, take heart! God promises better times are ahead. In Jeremiah 31:33-34, he says he will put His law in our hearts:

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord.

Until that day comes, you and I will need to toil in order to carve God’s words into our daily lives. Why not take time today to review a favorite passage of scripture that you memorized as a child?


Advent 2018 – Day 6

You came back! I hope you are enjoying the devotionals in this Advent series on God’s “I WILL” promises.

Recently, two of my dear friends died within a single week. Neither death was expected. One woman was the caregiver for her husband; we were all shocked to find that Carol was the first to go! The other woman enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner and, after one last sip of coffee, had a stroke; June died the next day. It will be a hard Christmas for their families.

When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death or whether we sit down to eat in the presence of our enemies, we look to God for protection. How encouraging to hear God say in Isaiah 43:2:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.

Again, in Isaiah 41:13, he tells us, “I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will be here to help you.’” And in Ex. 14:14, Moses records, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm!”

These promises comfort us. There is no question that God has all the power needed to uphold his end of the contract. Our only responsibility is to trust and stay calm.

What trials are you facing in the weeks ahead? Can you take a deep breath, lean back and trust his arms to catch you?


Advent 2018 – Day 7

A whole week of Advent has already slipped by! Thanks for coming back to learn more about God’s “I WILL” promises.

Once, when I was in grade school, I played the role of Mary and held the baby Jesus in our church’s Christmas nativity. I don’t remember trying out for the part. And I don’t think I was type cast for the role. More likely, people assigned the role to me because I was the pastor’s daughter!

Have you ever tried out for a sports team or auditioned for a role in a play or a choir? What emotions went through you? Perhaps you felt nervous about whether you would pass muster and be accepted. Were you disappointed if you did not get the role you sought? Or maybe you were upset because others got the position you wanted, not because they were more qualified, but because they knew someone who was making the cuts and assigning roles.

God does not play favorites. In John 6:37, 39, Jesus said, “All that the Father has given me will come to me, and the man who comes to me I will never turn away. . . . And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.” All who come to Jesus will be welcomed. Not even one will be rejected!

Many years after my first time taking the part of Mary, I was assigned the role of Jesus’ mother a second time. I stood at the foot of the cross in our church’s annual Easter play. This time I held no plastic doll representing the Christ child. This time I was old enough to appreciate that my Savior faced rejection by his own people so that I could live with him forever.

This Christmas, don’t forget to look beyond the manger to the cross. He waits to welcome each of us into his embrace.


Advent 2018 – Day 8

Thanks for returning to join us for today’s devotional in our Advent series on the theme of God’s “I WILL” promises.

In December of last year, my husband and I spent our first Christmas at our new apartment in our retirement community. Decades of shoveling snow, cleaning gutters and raking leaves had lost their delight, and I now enjoyed being able to watch snow descend without feeling any need to clear it away. We can walk to a pharmacy, a restaurant, the bank, my physical therapist and the mail room, all without stepping outside. If we need a new light bulb, a staff person comes to change it! We have everything we need at our fingertips. Almost.

Even the best retirement community cannot truly supply every need. Our new home cannot guarantee health or financial security. Meeting those needs is in God’s wise hands. Jesus promises us in Matthew 6:31-33:

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Perhaps you think this promise is only for super holy saints like Peter and Paul, but in Philippians 4:19, Paul assures us, “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

Because God is meeting all your needs, why not look around you today and ask how God might use you this Christmas season to meet the need of a friend, a neighbor, coworker or even a stranger?


Advent 2018 – Day 9

Thanks for coming back to read another Advent devotional about God’s “I WILL” promises. I hope your moments spent here are like a quiet eddy in the rush of the holiday activities.

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” I laugh when I hear those familiar words. All too often I can’t get to sleep, and in the wee hours of the morning I am wide awake. I write letters to my kids, I clean the floors, or write devotionals like this one. Sleep many times eludes me, and I rise in the morning feeling groggy and unprepared for a new day.

Yet I take comfort because the Lord knows my body needs rest. He will eventually allow me to rest. In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus promised:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

These words echoed those of the prophet Isaiah centuries earlier, “Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Are you exhausted from Christmas shopping, baking and parties? Reread the verses above and see if you can find the clues on how to receive God’s strength.