Posted in Advent devotions, Devotions

Advent devotion: “What are you doing out here?”

“Live and in person” Advent devotion for November 30, 2020. Read Genesis 16:7-14 and Psalm 16.

It has been four chapters and ten years since Abram believed and obeyed the command of the Lord to go to Canaan where he would become a great nation. Abram and his wife Sarai still have no children. Not much of a nation so far. So Sarai has her husband sleep with her servant Hagar. Hagar conceives and Sarai is not happy. She treats Hagar badly until Hagar finally leaves.

The angel of the Lord finds her at a spring and asks, “What are you doing out here?” Now that phrase “the angel of the Lord” means more than just an angel like the ones Jacob sees in his staircase dream or that the shepherds saw on the night when Jesus was born. By the end of these verses, Hagar knows she has seen the Lord, “a God of seeing,” “him who looks after me” (16:13). This moment is one of the pre-incarnational appearances of the second person of the Trinity, whom we will later get to know as Jesus Christ. No one can look at God the Father and live. You can see God the Holy Spirit at work, but it’s like the wind. You can’t see it but you can see its effect. It must be the Son.

Hagar couldn’t win. She did what she was told, but still got in trouble. It was one of the first “no good deed goes unpunished” moments. But the Lord found her and sent her back home to be the mother of a great nation. Hers would not be the covenant people of God, but they would be a family to be reckoned with nonetheless.

All of us have had moments when we’ve done everything right, but it still turned out wrong. A recipe that tasted terrible. A do-it-yourself project that soon ended up in the trash. A best effort that only earned a “C” from the teacher. A carefully chosen gift the recipient returns the next day.

What do you do when you just can’t win? You remember that God doesn’t care about you because you’re a winner, or successful, or get lots of “likes.” He cares about you because you are one of His. He made you, knows you, loves you and sometimes asks “What are you doing?” Jesus, live and in person, would later reassure His disciples, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58)!

When it feels like I’m out in the middle of nowhere, thanks for finding, seeing and looking after me, Lord. It is so good to know that I’m not alone! Amen.

Posted in Advent devotions, Devotions

Advent devotion: The Offspring

“Live and in person” Advent devotion for November 29, 2020. Read Genesis 3:15 and Psalm 85.

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

The consequences of the first disobedience and fall into sin are immediate and varied. The man and the woman cover their nakedness, hide from the presence of God in the garden, and make excuses for their behavior. But the effects of sin will go much further, affecting families and relationships, what it means to work the ground to produce food, and making life finite. After all that, you will die. Or as God puts it, “to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:16-19).

Before all that, though, God addresses the serpent, whom John will identify as the devil and Satan in Revelation. He condemns the serpent saying, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock, and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go and dust you shall eat all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:14). God goes on to say, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” In other words, you’re now the enemy. That hostility will span generations, “between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).  One day an offspring, a descendant of the woman will step on the head of the enemy, an image of victory over an opponent.

One of the first things I do when I see a bug in the house is step on it. Problem solved. Well, most of the time. I once stepped on a wolf spider whose babies scattered in all different directions! It’s not always as easy as it seems.

A descendant of the woman, Jesus of Nazareth, stomped on the head of Satan and won a decisive victory over sin, death and the devil’s power. But it wasn’t easy. The Son of God, live and in person, experienced the same struggles of life that we do. When He showed up, it seemed like the demons came out of the woodwork like swarming insects (or arachnids). His ministry quickly took Him to the cross, a Good Friday death, and a Sunday resurrection that swallowed up death forever.

From “way back when,” God intended to come and take care of the problem Himself, live and in person. The eternal Word would indeed become flesh to not only live among us but overcome death for us, too.

A virtual doctor’s appointment might be able to prescribe something for your sore throat. But you’ll need the hands of a surgeon to take out those tonsils. Or a visit from a pest control person to really take care of those spiders. And a Savior, live and in person, to give us life.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the amazing gospel promise wrapped up in Your condemnation of the serpent so long ago. Thank You for the fulfillment of that promise in the birth, life death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Posted in Advent devotions, Devotions

Advent devotions: Live and in person!

Special 2020 Advent devotions prequel

This has been a crazy year of quarantine, shelter-in-place, distancing and masks. I’ve preached to an empty sanctuary. You’ve worshiped online. I’ve taught and led meetings via Zoom.

But it’s just not the same, is it?

From the very beginning, God said it wasn’t good for his created people to be alone. That’s why he created the woman. In those Edenic days, God would walk through the garden he had created, personally interacting with the man and the woman. Until that one day, Adam and Eve attempted to “quarantine” themselves with some leaves in the bushes because they had disobeyed the prime directive to not eat from that tree.

That changed everything. But God knew that was not the way it was supposed to be. In that moment, he initiated a plan to restore the relationship between Him and His creation. He promised to be a part of their lives.

Advent is a powerful time in the church year to remember God’s journey into this world as flesh and blood, as a person, as a baby. Scripture is filled with images and foreshadowing of the incarnation when the Word would indeed become flesh. This year my Advent devotions are intended to help you reflect upon the power, comfort and assurance that God has not abandoned you, but has come to be with you. It’s not just on paper. it’s not just a story. It is God in the flesh, live and in person!

In the past few months, some of your doctor visits have been through windows or via Skype. You have virtually celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and graduations via Zoom. Perhaps you have appeared before a judge online. Yes, we can get it done that way. But it’s just not the same, is it? It’s frustrating, isolating, quiet, confining, claustrophobic and lonely.

God’s word says we are much stronger when we are together than when we are apart. Two or three together cannot be easily broken!

Isolation threatens our faith. It weakens us. It undermines our faith, friendships and perceptions.

Job knew that not even death could take away his personal connection with God. He knew he would see his Redeemer in the flesh one day. We too look forward to that day!

I pray that this year’s devotions will bless you. I hope they will help you grasp the amazing grace of God that refuses to let us live apart form His love!