Advent Reflection – “The Eternal God is Your Refuge”

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Each week of Advent, I’ll be posting two reflections on a different name of Jesus as given in Isaiah 9:6. This week’s name is “Everlasting Father.” 

Guest writer: Mimi Otani, crazy4jazz.com

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6.

READ

Deuteronomy 33:27

The eternal God is your refuge,
and his everlasting arms are under you.
He drives out the enemy before you;
he cries out, ‘Destroy them!

REFLECT & PRAY

Another comforting characteristic of God is that he is eternal and everlasting. When we are facing adversaries, it feels like our struggles will last for eternity. But God’s everlasting arms are longer and greater than those of our enemies, and he will bring the victory to those who love him. He commands us to “Destroy them!”, which suggests that he is inviting us to take part in his victory with our actions.

Indeed, in many battles described in the Old Testament, the LORD says “I will give so-on-so into your hands,” and yet the Israelites still had to go and fight. If the enemy is already defeated, then why go and fight instead of doing nothing? Perhaps we are to take part in God’s mission.

Through our God we shall do valiantly; it is he who treads down our enemies. (Ps 108:13). And yet, we take part in the “treading down” and share in God’s victory. While we are battling, we may get hurt. However, he has promised us that we can take refuge in him. He enfolds us like an eagle trying to protect its eaglets.

I hope these images give you an idea of what it is like to be under his wings. They protect us forever.

OBEY

Are there any areas in your life where you feel like you are facing adversaries, whether physical (an individual or organization, an illness or injury) or spiritual (temptations, addictions, distractions)?

Spend some time over the next few days asking your Father to make you aware of his everlasting arms surrounding you, protecting and fighting for you. Ask God if there is any way he is inviting you to participate as he fights on your behalf.

Advent Reflection: “This Foolish Plan of God”

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Each week of Advent, I’ll be posting two reflections on a different name of Jesus as given in Isaiah 9:6. This week’s name is “Counselor.” 

Guest writer: Abraham Aldama

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6.

READ

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”

REFLECT & PRAY

The message of the gospel makes no sense. Think about it! Jesus Christ, who is God himself, took human form so he could die in our stead to give us life and reestablish the communion He once had with us. In human terms that is absolute madness! Why would the Almighty God want a relationship with us mortals? Why would He want to be in communion with sinners?

It’s because He cannot help but love us. He cannot deny his essence. He is love (1 John 4:8). Why is love His essence? I do not know.

The message of the cross is not for those for whom everything has to make sense. It is not for those who think they have it all figured out and think that they are in control of their lives. It is not for those who trust in their own strength, social status, wealth, education, and connections more than they trust God. It is not for those who do not love Jesus in return.

Jesus came for the poor, the sick, and the lame to show that it is not our earthly belongings or status that matter. He came for those whose power, accomplishments, and money are garbage compared to their desire to know Jesus (Philippians 3:8). I am not saying that success, fame, and wealth are bad in and of themselves. Paul himself was pretty successful in human terms before his calling. However, when we truly want to have a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus because we love Him, our dependence on other things will diminish to the point where they stop mattering at all. We will have nothing left to boast about but about Jesus.

In your prayer time today, ask God to examine your heart and show you if you have been depending on and boasting about things that are not Him. Do you depend on your own job? Your connections? Your family? Maybe even your ministry? Do you boast about your accomplishments? About your own righteousness?

On the contrary, do you feel unworthy because of your sins and failures? Do not despair but rejoice. The Lord has come for you!

RESPOND

Ask Jesus to be your counselor, your guide through life. Ask, as the worship song* goes, that His voice may be louder and clearer than all the others. If you hear Him speaking (however this might come for you), answer with Samuel’s words, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” and follow His voice.

Ask Jesus to increase your dependence on Him. Ask Jesus to be your wisdom: your righteousness, your holiness, and your redemption.

Finally, be mindful of when you are tempted to boast about your belongings, your accomplishments, your skills, your righteousness, or anything other than Jesus. Ask Him to help you overcome those temptations when you feel that they are creeping up.

 

*Full Attention, Jeremy Riddle

Advent Reflection: God’s Plan to Heal the World

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This morning, as I was thinking and praying about my next Advent reflection, the news was coming in about the bombing in the subway tunnels of Midtown Manhattan. Thankfully, there were only a few minor injuries and the bomber was caught.

In light of the attack this morning, here are my thoughts on the name “Mighty God.” I will post the missing reflection on “Counselor” later this week.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6.

READ

Jeremiah 23:5-6

“For the time is coming,”
says the Lord,
“when I will raise up a righteous descendant
from King David’s line.
He will be a King who rules with wisdom.
He will do what is just and right throughout the land.
And this will be his name:
‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’
In that day Judah will be saved,
and Israel will live in safety.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Living between the resurrection of Jesus and the final coming together of all things in heaven and earth means celebrating God’s healing of the world, not his abandoning of it” – N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope

This morning, a bomb exploded in a subway station in Midtown Manhattan. It did very little harm, and the would-be suicide bomber has been captured. But we know there are more people like him bent on violence of one kind of another, all over the world. Everywhere we turn, there are “wars and rumors of wars.”

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It seems only fair to wonder: Where is God and why isn’t he doing anything about all of this?

Centuries ago, God gave the prophet Jeremiah a glimpse into his plan. He told Jeremiah he would send a King unlike any other – a perfect ruler who would bring wisdom, justice, and security. He would bring his divided people back together, back from war and exile. The new King would give his people his righteousness. He would restore their ability to live in a rich, intimate relationship with God.

God’s promise, given through Jeremiah, brought much-needed hope at a time when his people were caught in political turmoil, fear, and heartache. And it brings hope to us today.

Jesus, our Mighty God, came to be King not just of Israel but to all of us. When Jesus defeated death and evil at the cross, he began his reign. He began extending his rule over everyone and everything, a process of healing and restoration that will only be complete when he returns to earth again. In that day, he will bring lasting peace, prosperity, and joy to all of creation. As N.T. Wright explains, God hasn’t abandoned the world; he is healing it.
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More than ever, we need Jesus to come and bring his promised peace. While we wait, we have the incredible privilege of working alongside Jesus, to bring healing and hope in our own spheres of influence. Sometimes that might not feel like much, but empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can work and pray, with faith, towards that time when Jesus’ reign is complete.

OBEY

Speak to Jesus about your hopes and fears for today and for the future. Ask him to give you a vision for his “healing of the world” and how you can play a part in it. Pray for the courage and faith to follow your calling.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you a person in need of encouragement. Ask Jesus what words of hope he has for that person. Contact that person and pass on Jesus’ words.

Advent Reflection: Jesus’ Words of Life

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Each week of Advent, I’ll be posting two reflections on a different name of Jesus as given in Isaiah 9:6. This week’s name is “Counselor.” 

Guest writer: Mimi Otani, crazy4jazz.com

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6.

READ

John 1:14-18

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”

REFLECT AND PRAY

A good counselor is truthful as well as gracious. Jesus’ Apostles tell us that as we speak the truth in love, we will grow more like Christ (Eph 4:15).

Counselors guide others with words. Words, especially eloquent words, can have a strong effect on people. They can be wise or they can be unwise. They can help or hurt. Therefore, a speaker or writer must take great care before expressing them. Once uttered or published, words cannot be taken back – one cannot un-ring the bell.

If human words are powerful, then how much more powerful are God’s words? His words created the whole universe and the beginning of time. Such powerful words without grace could destroy us all.

But God’s power is not aimed at our destruction but at bringing us life. Jesus, the Word in human form, reveals the Father’s heart to us by “making his home among us.” He comes to us with love and a gentle spirit (1 Cor 4:21).

In your prayer time today, ask Jesus to reveal to you what kinds of words you have spoken today to yourself and to others. Ask Jesus to show you where your words have been hurtful or helpful, whether you have spoken truth with love or used it as a weapon. As Jesus brings your words to mind, respond with either thanks for how your words brought life or by asking for forgiveness for how they caused pain. Finally, ask Jesus to speak his own words to you. Consider bringing to him a problem or a question you have been dealing with, and hear what loving counsel he has for you this Advent season.

OBEY

What have you heard from Jesus during your prayer time? He may be leading you to ask for forgiveness for harsh words spoken or inviting you to say something life-giving to a person you will encounter this week. Or, he may offer you steps to address the problem you are facing. Whatever Jesus says to you, offer him your love and gratitude for his presence with you, and respond in obedience.

Advent Reflection: Drawn into Christ’s Love

656b8228-6f39-443c-82fd-0c3f0771c483An Advent series on the Names of Jesus from Isaiah 9:6.

Guest writer: Mercy Perez

Name of Jesus: “Wonderful”

READ

Romans 11:33

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments
and unfathomable are His ways!

REFLECT & PRAY

When I was a child and found myself in a difficult situation I would run to my mother for help. I remember, on one occasion, twirling my hair around a hairbrush and not able to undo it. My hair was wound tight on that hairbrush. My mom, with all the patience in the world, sat me between her legs and masterfully freed my hair.

As a child, I ran to my mother because she was always there. She was constant in meeting my basic needs. I grew to trust her for answers and guidance.

As an adult, I have learned that God knows me better than I know myself and it is a good thing to seek his wisdom and guidance in making life choices.

There is one thing that I have learned as I read the stories and events in the Bible; God does not follow anyone’s plans. His ways are unconventional and I must not put limitations on what He can do and does.

He promised a nation – as many descendants as there are the stars in the sky – would come from a 100-year-old man and a barren wife, and it was so (Ex. 32:13).

He made a passage of safety for his people by opening the Red Sea and they walked on dry ground (Ex. 14:21).

He also promised a Savior, not only for the Jewish nation but for all people.

Born of a virgin, in a stable, Jesus lived a humble life and died on a tree. Yet he turned the world upside down with a message of the kingdom of God, a message of reconciliation.

God’s love for us is deep and unceasing. He can do the impossible. And all that he has done and continues to do is for the purpose of drawing us closer to him, through the reconciliation of his son.

In your prayer time today, start by acknowledging to God that his ways are more than we can know or understand. Praise him for his wondrous riches, power, and knowledge.

Ask Jesus to bring to mind that one thing, or that one situation, that has kept you from drawing closer to him. Then, ask him to give you the strength, wisdom, and knowledge to face and overcome whatever is drawing you away.

OBEY

As you hear Jesus’ voice, ask for his help to respond with trust. Believe he is working in your life, in your situation, and in your struggle. Take a moment to be still, letting your loving, wonderful Savior draw you further into his love.