ADVENT DEVOTION | FAITHFUL ANTICIPATION

Christmastime brings us lots of familiar stories of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men and so on.  Seldom do we hear of a faithful man named Simeon and his deep desire to see the Christ child.  He’s not in the nativity, that’s for sure.  You can find him in Luke 2:25-25.  If you haven’t read this, take a minute to go back and dig in.

You see, Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.”  That’s a long wait!  When we read Scripture, we can’t glance over thing like this.  We have to take it for what it really says and know the context.  These words point to Simeon’s lifetime of waiting but also around four hundred years since the prophets last spoke.  This wait for a Savior was long!  You also see in the text that Simeon was “righteous and devout” and that he was waiting for Jesus with faithful anticipation.  The story continues with a full temple- people everywhere, cooing over babies and religious leaders prominently walking around – and Mary and Joseph walk in with the long anticipated King without anyone noticing.  Except for Simeon, that is!  The name Simeon means “he who listens.”  We see the meaning of his name come to life as he listens to the gentle whisper of the Spirit, hopping up with excitement and taking the baby, His King, into His arms.  The story of Simeon points to a greater reality!

We see ‘waiting’ a lot in Scripture:

  1. The Hebrews waiting in Egypt under Pharaoh – 400 years
  2. Waiting for Jesus [Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 9:6-7]
  3. The disciples waiting for the Holy Spirit in the upper room after Jesus ascended.
  4. Even now, we wait for the Second Advent. Jesus is coming again!

Waiting is tough!  Yes, Simeon waited well, but ultimately he is like us.  Whether we realize or not, we face this tension between our soul and our flesh consistently.  You see this in the God-Man when He is in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing the sacrifice that He will lay down very soon.  In this tension he prays, “I am overwhelmed to the point of death…the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is so weak.”  The reason that waiting is so tough is because our soul is longing for more, knowing that we were made to glorify God and commune with Him- but we hit this fleshly ceiling!  Our flesh gets tangled in the here and now, and therein lies the tension, and we wrestle with it day in and day out.

Waiting is tough, but waiting is best because God is faithful!  Isaiah tells us, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you” (Isaiah 30:18a).  In good times, when God’s hand is evident, God is faithful.  In mundane times, when we are living on repeat and living the daily grind, God is faithful.  In tough time, when we experience loss, heartache and we are hurting, God is faithful!

John Flavel said this, “The delay of your mercies is really for your advantage.  Why is that?  Delay is preparing your heart to receive mercy- that you may receive it with the greatest advantage of comfort.  The foolish child would pluck the apple while it is green, but, when it is ripe, it drops of its own accord, and is more pleasant and wholesome.  It is great mercy to have a heart willing to entrust all to God, and to be at His disposal, than to enjoy presently the mercy we are most eager and impatient for.”

What if Simeon didn’t wait?  How much joy would have been stolen from him?  When we faithfully anticipate God at work in all things, we aren’t surprised by His hand, but in awe of His meticulous work, seen and unseen, and that He allows us to play in those spaces!  Simeon knew this truth and diligently waited with faithful anticipation for the greater joy that was to come!  We can have joy now too.  Jesus grants us this with his life, death and resurrection!  But our fullness of Joy is coming.  The Second Advent is near.  Let’s wait with faithful anticipation.

Rich Dugan has been a camper, summer staff member, evangelist and has served on the Board of Directors. Rich is currently Pastor of Youth, Young Adults, and Life Groups at Zarephath Christian Church.

Lent Reflection: The Gospel Today

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God did an amazing thing through His Son Jesus by sending Him to die in order to redeem us. Although we cannot fathom the burden that Christ bore on the cross, we can cherish and be in awe of its implications in our hearts and lives today.

The beauty of the story of Jesus Christ is what the Gospel is all about. The Gospel is the saving power that Jesus Christ brought to the table when He conquered the grave. We now live beyond the tomb, in an era of salvation- living with purpose and a calling because of this amazing event in history.

So what should we do with this Gospel? Paul writes about this in his letter to the Philippians, giving personal examples and coaching to the church of Philippi, breaking down what the Gospel looks like in his life and what it should look like in ours (chapter one):

1. Advance the Gospel (v.12-18)
Push the Gospel forward at all costs. Paul was imprisoned while writing this letter and was rejoicing in that fact because through his imprisonment he was able to push the Gospel forward. In his case, he was paving the way for others to speak more boldly about the Gospel in a place that didn’t accept it with wide-open arms. He had plenty of people who hated him because he preached salvation in Jesus Christ. We must take advantage of every chance that we have to push the Gospel
forward, planting seeds in hearts so that God may cultivate them- no matter what the circumstance.

2. Live for the cause of Gospel (v.19-26)
Paul deeply desired to be with Jesus in Heaven, but instead realized that he had a mission to accomplish while here on earth. Paul’s life-mentality was to live for the cause of the Gospel through it all- good times and bad (keep in mind: he was in jail). Are we living for the Gospel daily? Our minds must be refocused on the Gospel each morning. What a beautiful way to live- in the light of His saving grace!

3. Walk Worthy of the Gospel (v.27-30)
Paul challenges the church of Philippi to “walk worthy of the Gospel.” We must be in fervent prayer as we strive towards actually wrapping our minds around what God has done for us through His Son, Jesus. This is what will motivate us to walk in a way that honors what the Gospel represents.

The Gospel still has power today. Paul tells us to embrace it.

Rich Dugan is studying pastoral ministry at Lancaster Bible College and has served on summer staff and in many other volunteer positions at camp. Image credit: Wendy Aros, via CreationSwap.

Beautiful heartbreak

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I’m going to keep this short and sweet for a reason. I want this to hit you like it hit me.

Think of the God we serve and how absolutely marvelous he is. He sent his only Son to die for us! Looking at Jesus’ life, you see his constant perfection in his battle with the flesh. Looking at his crucifixion you see him brutally nailed to a cross. This beautiful, heart breaking scene is what cleanses us today and what goes over my head so often. You see, growing up in the church, I always hear about the cross and most of the time take it for granted. Are you in the same boat? Read Matthew 27…actually think about it! Pray for more and more understanding because nothing can bring our human minds to grip with how much love and compassion Jesus Christ showed towards a mankind that was backstabbing him then, and is still backstabbing him today. Picture yourself at the foot of the cross, hearing the mockers pass, daring him to save himself when we as Christians knew he could’ve. We are those mockers. Every time we sin, we do it at the foot of that tree that he was nailed on.

The thing that gets me is the fact that even when Jesus was up there on that cross, hearing all of these people, his heart was still breaking for them; and his heart still breaks for us sinners today. Through suffocation, bleeding, and unfathomable suffering his main goal was to please his Father in Heaven by taking the sins of the world. We might as well be one of those mockers walking by the cross that scoffed at the Almighty King when we fall into the trap of sin.

To Jesus be the glory for his amazing life here on earth and to God be the glory for giving such a cruel world a chance to live.