Rethinking Advent

I did not grow up celebrating the Advent season. My faith tradition saw Advent as “a Catholic thing” and avoided it completely. My first real encounter with Advent was while visiting Methodist churches during the holiday season and watching the lighting of the candles but I still didn’t understand what it was all about. I did think that an Advent calendar with candies or toys behind each window was cool ( I still would like a Lego one!)

Recently, though, I have been exploring Advent and trying to understand it. This Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent, with the lighting of the Candle of Prophecy or the Hope Candle. The idea is for us to focus this week on the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah and the Scriptures that foretold His arrival. In a world bereft of hope, to a people who were beaten and conquered, the longing for their Messiah was intense. For us today, we can look back and take joy that the Messiah did come just as predicted. We can look ahead to the prophecy of the Messiah’s return, to rescue once again a people beaten down and trying to hang onto the hope of His return.

Traditionally, during Advent, Christmas carols and hymns are not sung. Not until Christmas Eve, anyway. Then, for 12 days afterwards they are sung. During Advent, Advent songs are sung, like Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel or Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. Quite a few churches I know sing both during the season though.

Advent seeks to refocus us on the true meaning of Christmas. The coming of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus Christ. In a modern, secular age where gifts are the focus of the holiday season, Advent calls us back to why we celebrate. A people living in great darkness will see the Light. Historically, the 4 weeks of Advent saw believers focusing on fasting, repentance and hopefully and prayerfully pondering the great gift God has given to us in His Son. Now that I can celebrate. To re-focus on God and His provision, that is a good thing.

I will still sing my Christmas carols prior to Christmas. I like them too much. I will grab some purple, pink and white candles and incorporate them at home, though, as a teaching tool and a reminder to myself. I will seek to understand more about the 2nd candle (Preparation or Bethlehem), the 3rd (Candle of Joy or Shepherd candle) and the 4th (Candle of Love or Angelic Announcement candle). Of course, the White Candle for Christ needs no explanation. I will seek to prepare myself spiritually for celebrating Christmas with even more meaning than before. So come with me on this journey of Advent and let me know what Advent traditions you have or the meaning it holds for you. Enjoy this week’s song lyrics below.


O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14



What A Day That Will Be

On my drive to work in the morning, I often listen to Turning Point and Power Point as I travel. This month has been especially good with Dr. David Jeremiah going through Daniel and Dr. Jack Graham going through Revelation. They dovetail together quite nicely and its like getting both the ABC’s and XYZ’s of prophecy. This morning, as I am listening to the passage on us being the Bride of Christ and Him returning for us, a song I had not thought about in a long time popped into my head. It was the old hymn, “What A Day That Will Be” written by Jim Hill.

If you do not know this song, here are the lyrics:

There is coming a day,
When no heart aches shall come,
No more clouds in the sky,
No more tears to dim the eye,
All is peace forever more,
On that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There’ll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be

Indeed, it will a glorious day. Whether I go to Him or He comes for me doesn’t matter. On that day when I see Jesus nothing else will matter. I am ready to see Him, are you?

The Days of Noah

Recent events in our country have stirred the church into an uproar. People I come into contact with are asking, “What does this mean for the church?”, “How should we respond?”, “Will we see persecution for speaking the truth, will be prosecuted for hate speech for preaching the Bible?”

While I do not pretend to know all the ramifications of the recent Supreme Court decision, I do know this: light shines brighter the darker it is outside. In our work around the globe, I have seen Christians and the Church do far more with less, in much more hostile conditions than the American church even contemplates doing. If we had been busy preaching the gospel without compromise, sharing our lives and beliefs with others, living righteously and not winking and dismissing sin in the Body, we would never have come to this point. Confession of sin and repentance is a foreign language in most churches. Cultural Christianity has been laid bare and found wanting, and all the hand-wringing in the world isn’t going to change things.

Now, more than ever, the Church is to continue her mission — rescuing people from the kingdom of darkness by proclaiming Jesus as the only hope for mankind. We are to be salt and light, exposing evil and flavoring the world with good deeds so that even are enemies are forced to acknowledge that we are beneficial and give glory to our God.

American Christianity has lived in a cocoon for so long, we believed we were never going to face persecution. We believed we were the apple of God’s eye, and He would never let us go through hard times. After all, we are the ones saving the world through our mission efforts. Our mistake was that of Israel. They also believed this and could not fathom God sending them into captivity. They winked at sin and corruption in their midst and believed that they were morally superior to other nations. It took centuries to knock that out of their heads. Seventy years in exile, decades under occupation, finally expulsion from their homeland that God had given to them. What makes us think God will deal with us any differently?

Now is the time for the Church to humbly acknowledge its failings, repent of making itself an idol and go back to our first love, Jesus. We need to do the things we did at the first — mortifying sin in our bodies, following Jesus without regard to cost and rejoicing when we are found worthy to suffer for His name. Our example should be the 3 Hebrews in the Book of Daniel. They did not bow to political correctness, they boldly told the truth, they lived uncompromising lives and when faced with punishment they did not whine or cry but stood fast, willing to endure whatever the penalty was, even if it cost them their life. When we act like they did, the church will once again become a force that will change society.

This, I believe, can be our finest hour. We have a great opportunity to declare our beliefs and to live them out while the world is watching. Let those who come behind us, find us faithful.

I am also reloading a podcast called “The Days of Noah” that I preached some time ago. I find it appropriate at this time.

Lessons In Hospitality Humilty: Hosting Without A Couch, Chairs, or Table


A fantastic article. A hard lesson that I am still learning, but thank God I have gotten much better at!

Originally posted on Do the Word:

2015-04-08 UU visitation-01We just spent the last month of our lives being hosted in a home with little to no furniture.  There were no couches to sit on and at times there was barely enough seats around the kitchen table–er, I mean folding table at which we ate dinner.  But it was one of the best experiences that we’ve had being hosted.

I would have been surprised, but I’ve experienced this before.  Every week we visit the homes of North Korean defectors in South Korea.  They will often cook for us and gladly share their lives with us.  At times, they will even host us overnight.  But it’s often very strange for American visitors (me included) because they have no beds, no kitchen table, no couches . . . and might I add, very small apartments! I often think that if a North Korean knew how strange it was for Americans they might…

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God’s Response to Christian Genocide? He Sends a Bible Book


Awesome article

Originally posted on Do the Word:

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“…barbaric atrocities committed against Christian minorities”…”blood…splashed everywhere“…”Christian communities being brutalized and extinguished“…”Is there not a stage when violent reciprocation becomes the only effective alternative?”

These are the recent news reports and opinions about what is more and more frequently being called “the year of the Christian genocide.” One commentator writes that the situation “can only be compared to the first centuries when Christians were hunted down as criminals in the Roman Empire.”

Amidst warnings that the situation will worsen “unless world leaders take more concrete actions to safeguard the religious and human rights of people,” and amidst claims that Jesus’ teachings don’t mean what they sound like they mean or  don’t apply in this case of large-scale barbarity, it’s worth asking:

How did God respond in that comparable situation of Christian genocide in the first centuries of the church’s existence?

He sent a…

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On Leaving A Legacy

Recently I got to witness something remarkable – a true legacy. In my duties as a hospice chaplain, I get to meet many families. Few have made such an impact on their community more than Mr. Joe. It wasn’t that Mr. Joe was blind. Many people are. It wasn’t just that he worked decades at a slaughterhouse while blind, remarkable as that was (truly blind, not just legally blind.) It wasn’t that he still worked his farm everyday while blind nor taught dozens of teens how to drive while blind (as scary as that sounds, it also explains a lot…) What impressed those of us who tended to him during his last few weeks on earth was the legacy he left behind in his family.

His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there. Not just physically, they were present with him. Not on phones or tablets or gaming systems – they were present to attend to the needs of him and his wife. The vast majority of them are all active in church. They treated those of us coming into the home to help care for him as family, not just hired help. As chaplain I get to stay with the family following death and the same treatment continues. The family is genuine and their faith is evident. This is the impressive legacy.

Stories of Mr. Joe are many and legendary in his community. More important than the stories, as compelling and entertaining as they are, is the legacy of a godly, caring family that he has left behind. They will, God willing, continue to impact the community for the kingdom of heaven. I can only pray that when my time comes, my family will show such a legacy. What about yours?