devotional, encouragement, holidays

Advent Week 2–Peace & Preparation

When my kids were small, their father would take them to the mall (or WalMart) to buy me a gift for Christmas and my birthday, which are two days apart. They would be so excited to wrap their gifts and place them under the tree—almost as excited as they were about shaking and squeezing all the gifts with their own names attached. 

A month, let alone a few weeks, was such a long time for little girls to wait! They would grow more excited and animated about those gifts under the tree every day until I thought they would burst from excitement! 

Each day, more gifts would appear under the tree, building the anticipation even more. More Christmas cookies, more Christmas carols, and more Christmas parties fueled their frenzy.

Our custom used to be that we would each pick one small gift to open on Christmas Eve before heading off to bed. One year, my younger girl was so anxious for me to open the gift she had picked out for me, that she asked if I would please open “the umbrella-shaped gift”!  

As with children (young and old!) at Christmas time, we, too, anxiously await the second return of Christ to bring us peace, right all the wrongs, and deliver us from the cares of this present world. 

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper. Psalm 72:12

Psalm 72:12

Even though the Israelites were longing for the promised Messiah, the Bethlehem of 2,000 years ago was not prepared for Jesus’ birth. 

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,    
from ancient days.

Micah 5:2

We’re looking for a Savior, just as much as the Israelites were over 2,000 years ago. So how can we prepare for Jesus’ peace during Advent? We can do good things for those around us. We can love and care for those within our sphere of influence. And we can pray to be transformed more to His likeness.

But just like the flurry of preparations that take place during December, we also must prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. Lord, help us remember to prepare our hearts for your coming. Soften our hearts. Give us open hearts to receive the King.

Friend, what do you need to do to prepare your heart for the coming King this Advent season?

Read Advent Week 1, Hope.

devotional, encouragement, holidays

Advent Week 1–HOPE

Advent

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

Hope has lost the original weight of its meaning. Now we say things like, “I hope it doesn’t rain again this weekend.” But in biblical times, hope held a much deeper significance. It means “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.” 

Many prophets foretold the coming, or advent, of the Messiah, and the Israelites pinned their hopes—their confident expectation for salvation—on the long-awaited Messiah. Isaiah 40 foretells the coming of a Messiah who will comfort His people and establish justice. The Messiah will display the power of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil.

In this hope, the Israelites anticipated a time of amazing worship, and we can likewise worship Jesus while looking forward to His second coming (see Psalm 122).

When the Messiah arrived as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, many were shocked and did not believe that He could save Israel from their hardships—the oppression of the Romans (as Moses saved the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians thousands of years earlier, see Exodus 1-14). 

For those looking for salvation from our current conditions (and who isn’t?) of pandemics, politics, and prejudice, our salvation might not look like what we think it should—just like the Jews of 2,000 years ago were sure the Messiah would arrive as a great and mighty King, not a tiny baby in a tiny town.

Today, we put our hope in the baby in the manger and our future hope in the second coming of the Messiah to save us from the oppressors of our current world.

While we don’t know the day or the hour, we do know that He will come to save us from the impending tribulation as foretold throughout the Scriptures “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).

The Jews of Jesus’ day were hoping for salvation from the Romans. We Christians today are hoping that Jesus will bring judgment to right all the wrongs. Justice will prevail—if only at the final judgment.  

We need to remember not to overlook the ordinary miracles and seemingly small moments of joy. In those things we will find our hope is truly a “steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).

What are you hoping for this Advent season? Please share with me, so I can pray with you!

anxiety, healing, moving on, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, writing

Why I’m Afraid to Write My Story

I’ve been procrastinating, which is unlike me. I’ve decided that this is the year to tell my story, but I want to communicate it with redemption and hope. As I was trying to figure out why I felt so anxious whenever I thought of writing recently, I came up with this (probably partial) list of fears. Can you relate?

I’m afraid I’ll be minimalized—again. I’m afraid my parents will disapprove of what I choose to say. I’m afraid others (kids, friends, family, strangers) will disapprove of what I choose to say. I’m afraid I’ll be told my story doesn’t matter. I’m afraid to relive some of the really hard parts of my story. I’m afraid people will think I’m not a good writer. I’m afraid I won’t come up with the right words. I’m afraid I won’t be able to craft the story with redemption and hope. I’m afraid I’ll have to do marketing and all that stuff that makes my brain hurt and makes me feel inadequate. 

I’m afraid people will say what happened to me wasn’t that bad. I’m afraid to be vulnerable because I don’t want to get hurt again/more. I’m afraid to dream. I’m afraid to hope. I’m afraid to believe that I could actually write something helpful that people would want to read (never mind the fact that part of my day job title includes the word writer). I’m afraid I’ve only got one word for how I made it through some of the toughest spots: God. I’m afraid I don’t know how to incorporate all the elements properly. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid it won’t be perfect.

There are nowhere near 365 “I’m afraid” statements there, yet God has provided 365 different verses in the Bible to address fear. A bunch of them are found in the book of Joshua as he was setting out to do a new thing. Over and over, God tells him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV). Like Joshua, I feel as if I’m setting out to do a new thing (telling pieces of my story). Like Joshua, I feel as if I need daily strength and encouragement not to be afraid. 

David also knew all about being in situations where fear was a normal response, yet he reacted like this: 

“In God, whose word I praise,

in God I have put my trust;

I shall not be afraid.

What can mere man do to me?”

Psalm 56:4 (NASB)

Turns out, “mere men” can do quite a bit, but it’s not permanent. Their words are not as powerful as the words of the Almighty God who promises to “redeem the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:22 ESV).

In the end, that’s what I’ve got to cling to: God. He’s been there all along, and He’s certainly not going to fail me now.