The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens – wakens my ear to listen… (Isaiah 50:4)  A power scripture to begin the month for those touched by God on the journey that seeks truth. To live is to die, but to die is to gain more of what the spiritual life in Christ has to offer. For like the prophets God touches the mouth and like the disciples God touches the hands that reach out towards the anointed hearts yearning to hear what the Spirit is saying to its own and we – we must listen like the one who is taught and set our face as one already redeemed, reconciled and vindicated. In spite of everything along the path God is steadfast in his promises.

The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting. 

The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.  
(Isaiah 50:5-10)

Advent 1 – Preparation In Chaos

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Luke 21:25-36

Shoppers pour into David Jones for the opening of the post-Christmas sales.It happens every year, the hustle in the bustle, the stress in the mess, and the chaos in the confusion over who saw the parking spot first. It must be the Christmas holiday season brought in with the evening after Thanksgiving Day. I’m not sure as to when what we know as black Friday became the harrowing event that it is today, but I’m pretty sure one precursor to such anxiety and anticipation is the once a year sale that ‘Strawbridge & Clothier’ use to have at the Jenkintown branch located just north of Philadelphia. Shoppers would come in groups to claim drastically reduced prices on furniture and other home goods. The savvy buyers had scoped out the items beforehand so that the day of, they could direct their team members to stand or sit with the item until it had been ticketed as sold in their favor. As maddening as the whole event was, somehow at that time it all seemed worth the effort. Most times people got exactly what they wanted. And so it is today, with what most of us call the Christmas season, where the stores have prepared well for their consumers and the consumers well prepared to buy the coveted prize at drastically reduced prices either for them selves or a loved one. While it is easy to get caught up in the madness of these events, I have found that what many people miss is that the preparation needed for this season has nothing to do with one single event, reward or acquisition, but rather a lifetime of continual events which lead to one ultimate experience. Of course the season to which I am referring is Advent, the liturgical season of preparation, expectation and awareness. (But) These days outside of the church, the season of Advent seems to have no real life of it’s own. It’s almost as if it appears to be packaged up like a gift; only to be opened on Christmas Day because the time we spend leading up to that moment is filled with distress and confusion much like the scripture describes as the roaring of the sea and the waves.

Thus, at first glance, the prophetic scriptures in Luke seem to promote the concept of Advent as we experience it in our everyday physical lives. Is it possible that the scripture could be referring to the hustle and bustle that we endure in order to get to that one magical day? Are these considered the signs; the shoving and pushing along with heightened sensitivities to being first in line or quicker to the availability of stuff? If that’s the case, then practically every aspect of our lives, could be considered a mini Advent. Consider all the work we put into achieving a new job, a new home, the long awaited college acceptance letter, engagements, or perhaps the birth of a first child. Do we not spend every day of our lives shifting and maneuvering various things and relationships in order for something to be gained or something to be received – big or small?

AdventConspiracyI recently read about a movement called the Advent Conspiracy. A group of three churches some years ago designed this movement to help give its participants the opportunity to slow down in order to experience a Christmas worth remembering by doing things differently and creatively. They said that the idea was to turn Christmas upside down with a movement that involved utilizing our time leading up to the day of Christmas, by focusing on four tenets; to worship fully, spend less, give more, and to love all. To worship fully was described as spending time giving Christ our full attention and our full praise. They defined spending less as the call to stop spending money on gifts that are forgotten about in less than a year, while the tenet of giving more was the call to give more of the self. Finally, to love all was to be expressed as – to love as Jesus loved by giving to those who really needed help. Who wouldn’t admit that this isn’t a wonderful (albeit familiar) concept? Except that, to suggest that these elements would turn Christmas upside down also seem to suggest that the season of Advent, what we as believers understand to be a celebration of our continual preparation, expectation and awareness of the coming of Christ, meant something else in the first place, that the dissipation, hustle and bustle was in fact it’s original intent. It seems to me that from a spiritual point of view, for those caught in this “seasonal” trap of which the scripture refers, the tenets of this movement were in fact turning Christmas right side up! All of those elements are things that God has called us to do even before the promise of the one who came and is to come again! This message had already been unwrapped for us in the Ten Commandments and subsequently unwrapped for us again in the New Commandment to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and love neighbor as self. What these churches proposed isn’t new. It’s not radical. And it certainly is not different from what is expected of us as Christians today. Advent, the season of preparation, expectation and awareness of the coming of Christ doesn’t need to be a conspiracy. (Because) Although the physical “season” of Advent comes but once a year, for the believer it has always been and always will be part of a continuous way of life. There is no doubt in my mind that if we are able to focus all of our preparations, expectations and awareness towards the glory of God we would in fact be living the fullness of an Advent life to which God has called us and not to the life called by the likes of a Strawbridge & Clothier.

So, here’s what we know. We know that when we look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves we can see for ourselves and know that summer is already near. So too, the season of Advent may bring with it some stressful and irksome events but we also understand that they are not without purpose. Yes, it’s easy to lose focus. Sometimes we fall short of our goals. If we are not careful we may find our selves caught up preparing for everything except the one thing that really matters. (And) As difficult and painful as it sometimes is to be caught up or moving in a direction we did not foresee, the season of Advent is our opportunity to remember that we can always be turned right side up, by helping us to see and discern the signs of chaos and respond with expressions of hope, joy and love as we celebrate the coming of Christ. We know that by sharing in the ancient longing of the Messiah, as well as encouraging one another to be alert for the Second Coming of Christ today, the heightened awareness of the Advent season is the perfect opportunity to help move us freely and without conspiracy to examine the fullness of our praise, the accountability of our time and treasure, and most importantly the expression of our love for God and one another. As we continue to discipline our faith in this “radical” preparation for what we already know is a two-fold outcome, our ongoing spiritual relationship and reconciliation with God through his Son Jesus Christ and the redemption of our spirit when Christ returns, no longer do we need to equate our preparation in Advent with waves of roaring distress but rather the promise of the life to come. Finally, we know that the daunting yet formidable voice of the gospel doesn’t have to be a seasonal challenge nor a conspiracy to change others if we already live both individually and corporately in faith, a life that is transparent to the truth about the word of God so that others too will experience Christ with us and believe.

Advent HopeSo, As we continue in this Advent season, Let us encourage one another to continue to look for the signs of Christ, knowing that the life of all things begins and ends with the Creator of all things and knowing that the Advent life is part of our life of faith, no longer to be lived waiting for temporary things like parking spaces or items so valiantly fought for at an annual sales event. Discern and know, that when these things begin to take place,be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and the worries of this life. (And) Be alert at all times, praying that we may have the strength in due time, to stand up and raise your heads before the Son of Man,ready to receive the ultimate gift – for surely and especially during this Advent season our redemption too (as well) is already near.

Fear Of God Is Our Confidence

The word is vexation, a state of being frustrated, annoyed or worried. Job went through a period of vexation. He pleaded for understanding of his friends’ reprimand as to what he had done to render such devastation in his life. Of course we know from the scripture that Job was innocent, guilty only of serving God. I believe Job had every right to plead his case. However, fear of God (Job 28:28) does not mean that we should be afraid to question God concerning the trials and tribulations in our lives. Wisdom is it’s own teacher. There will be many times that we are frustrated, annoyed or worried about a negative situation of which we are unaware as to why we are being challenged with this experience. Let us pray that seeking God will be our first and only recourse. Of course seeking wisdom about the situation will require that we believe God is present and at work even when what we see is to the contrary and all we are able to do is praise a truly just and loving God as we wait it out. All the while we know that redemption, reconciliation and healing is God’s blessed assurance.

Job 4:6  Is not your fear of God your confidence and the integrity of your ways your hope? 

Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and one’s children will have a refuge. 

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Living Out The Parable

When Christ wanted us to heed what he had to say he told a story. Jesus called it a parable. Although all parables have meaning, they don’t always have benefit to the hearer. One must be able to understand its meaning. Jesus said, (Mark 4:26-29) “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” The harder we try in this journey to take the fate of our own lives into our own hands, when fall, the greater the redemption in our own eyes seems to be. (But) our redemption, becomes our testimony; our own story about the seed that was planted and the growth through our experiences in the world that needed to take place. God’s presence of that seed, allows us to see that our fate has always been in God’s hands and that our fate is destined for something larger and more valuable than even we could imagine. It is then that the parables of the Kingdom are no longer riddled with metaphors to be deciphered. When we realize that the parables have taken on different meanings for us at various times in our lives, no longer are we prodigal but instead reconciled in our understanding of who God is and has always been. As we examine our selves in this journey and our own “perfect” imperfectness with the world, sometimes it is difficult to see what God sees in us. But when we consider the earthly relationship and its ultimate cycle of realization, which brings us back to the knowledge that indeed our Father can do anything, the Kingdom becomes clearer as we are able to see our selves in the parables for the benefit our own learning and ultimate growth.


As we face this world, at some point we realize that what we know to be true within in us, the world has sown with doubt. The world has sown with fear and the those whose heart is in the world doesn’t know Our Father! Even the most righteous who face this world have moments of fear and doubt. Remember Samuel’s brief moment with fear of Saul and his subsequent assumption about who God’s chosen anointed would be? So too with us, before we realize it, the seed of the Father’s love can seem small in comparison to what we see and experience in the World. (But) Paul reminds us that what God gives us is always sufficient (2 Cor. 12:8-9). Even the little that we know of God from the very beginning is more powerful and has more authority than anything the world has to offer, which as you know has a lot to offer. It is no secret to God that we may sometimes become wasteful, extravagant, self-important or foolish. Yet we have to remember that the first true seed of love that God plants within us is powerful enough to bring us out of whatever situation that has seemingly overwhelmed our lives. (And) It doesn’t matter how long it takes us to come to our selves and take hold of this one true faith, because, not only is God anxious to forgive us, he is even more anxious to redeem us; to give back what we allowed our experience in the world to steal. Although the seed of our faith hasn’t been taken away, we ceased allowing its effectiveness to manifest in our lives. Where we go at this crossroad of understanding makes all the difference as to the journey that surely lies before us.

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 

The One True Seed Of Faith

How fortunate it is for us that God looks at the heart of humankind. In scripture, God makes it quite clear as to what really matters. It’s not about what you see, nor is it about size either in numbers or physical grandeur. Certainly in our biblical history we have so many examples, Moses the murderer against the Egyptians, David the stripling and future adulterer against the Philistines, Peter who blatantly denies the truth before the Jewish people, and let’s not forget Paul the powerful self-righteous condemner against the Christian faith. The fact remains today as it did over two thousand years ago; and God said it first. He takes what we may see as imperfect and makes it perfect. What is small and seemingly insignificant in our eyes he destines for great things, all of which is for his purpose and for his glory. This in my belief is part of the mystery of redemption and reconciliation. (Because) In this Christian journey what ordinarily begins as a reawakening; a rebirth of the spirit can quickly become insignificant as we become increasingly prodigal. It is here that the significance of sowing seed makes the difference. What is most wonderful is that we have only to begin with the belief in the first true seed that is sown in us, despite our selves, fears and our failures, and hold on to that belief; that one true seed of faith, even in the midst of what seems like an insurmountable struggle.

1 Samuel 16:7 “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Rock Opera

Just finished watching “Jesus Christ Superstar” Awesome Musical based on the Rock Opera! Purposely told through the perceived eyes of Judas Iscariot, practically every fear known to man portrayed from every voice in this story of the Gospel and if truth is to be told within us we can find a bit of our selves in every voice. The musical begins with a frustrated Judas in red and just before Jesus is raised on the cross, Judas descends from above dressed in white yet with the same frustrations, still not understanding that to live one must die. Although we may suffer some of Judas’ frustrations we don’t have to live that way. Believe , Jesus has already paid the price. He has given us Pentecost (gift of the Holy Spirit) to help remind us. Let the Spirit of God sing out.

Acts 2:1-21 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 

Habitual Journey

Lent: Day 4 – Some say it takes a minimum of 30 days to train a specific behavior into a habit. Others say it takes a lifetime. I say it only takes one successful day at a time. All we really need is to be successful today and before you know it, many days will have become yesterdays. One day you will find your journey in this life focused on the hill, and know from whence your help comes. You will find that you remember the days of turmoil, only to remind yourself and others of how great God really is in this life, because of his mercy and his love, which endures forever. You live this journey, because He lives in you.

Philippians 4:10-20  I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Ezekiel 39: 21-29  They shall forget their shame, and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they live securely in their land with no one to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have displayed my holiness in the sight of many nations.

John 17:20-26  I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Psalm 30

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.

It’s About The Relationship

Christ and his Church is really what it’s all about. Christ is the head and we are his body of believers. The relationship we have with one another should reflect the relationship Christ has with his Church. Within each other we should strive to see Christ. While at the same time, within one another we should strive to see a valued part of Christ’s body. We are both anointed to lead and redeemed to serve. No matter who we are, where we’ve come from, or where we believe our selves to be going, it doesn’t get much simpler than that. In honor of Shrove Tuesday, shrive one another and value our relationships, the way that Christ values us.

Philippians 3:1-11 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death…

Shrove – past tense of shrive

Shrive – To hear the confession of and give absolution to (a penitent).  To obtain absolution for (oneself) by confessing and doing penance.

God’s Favor Alone

When Jacob left Laban, God instructed him to do so. No longer did Laban favor Jacob, namely because Jacob’s wealth was amassed through God’s favor and subsequently as a result of Laban’s selfishness. What did Jacob owe to Laban? Nothing. Jacob belongs to God not to Laban. There are many people who will favor us because of what they believe they can gain from us. They enter into God’s favor and into God’s presence with us by pretending to be on our side or traveling this journey with the same goal and purpose of a life redeemed and reconciled through Christ. In reality their motive is skewed and eventually they come out of their sheep’s clothing. When this happens we may find our selves in a place we don’t necessarily want to be. That’s okay! God knows his sheep and his sheep know him. The sheep always have favor with God! Keep listening, stay alert, return to his Word and believe in his truth. Eventually, like Jacob, God will call you out and lead you in his favor, to where he wants you to be.

God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands… Genesis 31:25-50

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit…I know my own and my own know me… John 10:1-18

I write to you, …because you know the Father…because you know him who is from the beginning…because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-17