Lent Reflection: Approach the throne with boldness

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So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
-Hebrews 4:14-16

The God of the universe, Creator of all, the great I AM invites each of us to approach the throne with boldness. The first time I read that I was amazed and yet somehow puzzled. How could I, the worst of all sinners, approach God’s
throne – and with boldness at that? How assumingly audacious!

I always imagined myself standing before God, but with my head tilted down, eyes on my feet, unable to look into His face because I’m so unworthy. But through the years as I’ve walked closely with the Lord and studied this scripture
more deeply, I’ve come to realize that it is because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that I can approach the throne. But not just approach the throne, approach it courageously because His throne is a throne of grace, and our High Priest, Jesus, sits at His right hand interceding for us.

So do you hear Him? He’s beckoning you into His presence. Calling you into his mercy and grace. His arms are outstretched, patiently waiting. Are you quiet enough to hear?

Can you see Him? A Father who kneels down so His child can reach up and embrace Him? Strength and power like no other, yet tender and soothing… a comforter. There is peace in His presence. Do you trust Him?

Thank you Lord, that you call us into Your presence and you ask us to come just as we are. Loving Father, help us to have child-like faith to trust You as we sink ever more deeply into your arms and rest in You.

Christina Maddalone is an assistant pastor at Evangelical UMC in Clarksboro where she oversees the youth group. She blogs at Christina in South Jersey. Image credit: Tyler Thompson, via CreationSwap.

Advent Devotion: Bombarded With Stuff

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The “Christmas season” this year, as I observed it, began on about November 1. “Christmas season” is in quotations because while Christmas decorations fill the stores, the focus is not so much on Christmas as it is on commercialism and materialism. Though we have a tendency to forget each year, this is how this “season” has begun for the better part of the last 20-30 years.

What has changed? Have the stores done this? Have they changed the way and the reason that Christmas is celebrated? Well they DO open their doors on Thanksgiving Day, so it must be their fault, right? I must admit that I found some of the door-busters tempting this year, though I didn’t dare brave shopping that day.

The truth is, we live in a culture driven by stuff, by material things. Of course the stores open on Thanksgiving Day! Why wouldn’t they? People (we) show up and the stores make money. It’s the logical chain of events. I have the tendency to believe that as long as people continue to show up earlier and earlier, the stores will continue lengthening their hours. The point is not that shopping is evil; it’s simply that our priorities have changed. So how can we change them back? How can we remember the actual reason for the season as we’re bombarded with stuff?

In John Chapter 3, we find John the Baptist busy baptizing when he is approached by his followers and asked why so many are going to Jesus to be baptized instead of him. They were obviously concerned that Jesus was taking away from their own ministry. John gently reminds them that he is simply preparing the way; that he has already told them that it is Jesus who is the Messiah. In verses 29 and 30 he says, “Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

John’s job was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He did that, all the while pointing to Christ. It was never his intent to take any glory away from Jesus and he made sure that people understood that by telling them of the absolute greatness of Jesus.

If more time was spent pointing to Christ, less time would be spent pointing toward the things of this earth. This Christmas season, I encourage you to point your heart towards Christ and encourage those around you to do the same. As more and more people realize the greatness of God and the smallness of themselves, hearts will turn to Christ.

Christina Maddalone is an assistant pastor at Evangelical UMC in Clarksboro where she oversees the youth group. She moved to the area earlier this year and came to Delanco Camp for the first time shortly after arriving. She blogs at Christina in South Jersey.