Advent Devotional for November 30

November 30, 2010, First Tuesday of Advent

Scripture: Jeremiah 33:14-16

The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendent of King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: “The Lord is our Righteousness.”

It’s difficult, today, to find things to be excited about. We live in difficult times.

Unemployment in Kentucky is 9.8 percent. Nationally, unemployment is 9.6 percent. Inflation is up. Hostilities are picking up between North and South Korea. We are still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When we think about all of that, it’s understandable if we think times are difficult.

The people of Israel faced difficult times as well when Jeremiah spoke to them here in Chapter 33. The Babylonians are marching toward Jerusalem. It is only a matter of time before Jerusalem falls and the people of Israel sent into exile. These are dark and gloomy times for the people of Israel, just as they are for many of us who are struggling in this economy and global climate.

Jeremiah offers hope to the people of Israel and offers us hope today. The Messiah is coming. He will bring justice. The Messiah will be about righteousness. Jerusalem will be saved. These words of promise comes with the joy of knowing that today is not the final story; a better day is coming. The Lord is coming. Be expectant of the better day, the Lord is coming.

In our day of economic recessions, wars, and rumors of wars live in expectation of a better day, the Lord is coming. May that promise bring you peace and hope of a better tomorrow as we live in the midst of today.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Lord, We live in a dark and difficult time. We can relate to the people of Israel. While we may not have invaders at our door, we live in the midst of economic troubles, financial hardships, and brokenness all around us. We live with the hope of our return. The promise of a better tomorrow. Guide our hearts, this day, that we may live a life of expectation. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.



Advent Devotional for Monday, Nov. 29

This year for Advent, I’m offering a daily devotional to members of my Sunday School class as a way to get us grounded on the meaning of this season of preparation. The devotions focus on key elements of the Advent season such as expectation, hope, peace, and rejoicing. We’re starting on in a mode of expectation or preparation. How are we preparing for the return of Christ as we live in the hope and expectation of that glorious day.

Here is the devotion for today. Hopefully, I’ll remember to post more of these throughout the season.

November 29, 2010, First Monday of Advent

Scripture: Isaiah 64:8-9

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people.

Part of expecting an arrival is being prepared for the arrival. A family expecting the birth of a child spends the nine months before the baby is born preparing for its arrival by buying needed clothes and accessories and preparing a nursery. At Christmas, even, we prepare our homes for the season by putting up Christmas trees, making cookies, and wrapping our gifts. We’re used to the idea of preparation for the things we are expecting.

Our verse today asks us some important questions, especially during the Advent season. Who is in charge of our preparations and for what are we being prepared for? As a time of preparation, Advent calls us to ready ourselves for Christ’s return. God is our Father and potter, and we are God’s children and clay. God desires us to allow him to mold us, and shape us, into the image he desires for us. That is the image of Christ, to be shaped by that love, and allow that image to impact how we interact with the world around us.

As we grow deeper in our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit transforms us to be what God has called us to be. Maybe it is the best mother or father we can be. Maybe it is to be more patient and loving. Maybe it is to be more hopeful when all seems lost. Whatever that may be, it is God’s desire for us to grow closer to him, so that we may be transformed and made ready for Christ’s return.

So how are we preparing today? How are we growing closer to God in our relationship with Christ so that we may experience the potter’s hands working in our lives?

Lord, You are the Potter, we are the clay. Mold us into what you desire for us. As we move forward into the season of Advent, prepare us for the Second Advent so that we may be ready for Christ’s return. Amen.

Working on Finals … in November. Either Intense or Nerd-ish.

Right now, my mind is trying to wrap itself around two projects – one for Church Growth and the other for Ethics of Hospitality. I’m admittedly taking on more than I can chew with both projects, so I am working on them both now, a good six weeks before they are due.

Smart? Yes. Intense? Yes. Nerd-ish? Perhaps.

Both projects are going to require a lot of research and, in one instance, some original research that will take time to analyze. I still need to get one project approved, which I am hopeful will happen today.

Here are the projects that I am working on and reasoning behind each project.

Church Growth: Evangelism Efforts of Non-Christians Under the Age of 40

One of the things that George Hunter’s Church Growth class has taught me is that to reach a certain group – or population – the one size fits all model doesn’t always work. What works in reaching an older generation is not necessarily going to work, for instance, a different generation. I believe that is one of the struggles we face with the growing population in America of individuals whom have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ or whom have run from the message of faith in Christ. Are we doing the same things we have always done or is there specific ways to reach this group of non-Christians?

That is what I want to study. What is the best way, in today’s American context, of reaching individuals whom have no primary church experience? To do so, I’m going to have to do some investigating of what has worked and what has not worked. There are several churches here in Lexington that are reaching that target population (under 40) with some success. I want to study what they are doing and how other churches can use those techniques and adapt them to their own contexts to reach this generation for Christ.

As a young minister in training, my generation is not my parent’s generation, nor is it the generation of my grandparent’s. Thus, it is the mission field and we have to look at America as a mission field and not the center of the global Christian experience. That is exciting and challenging at the same time.

Hospitality: Exclusion/Embrace of People Whom Have Different Political Persuasions

This is the project that has me the most excited going into the home stretch of the semester. It is one, as well, that I’ve been thinking about throughout the midterm election and its aftermath. Do we exclude others from fellowship in the church if they do not believe in the same way that “we” do? In other words, do we limit whom we let into our fellowships, especially in this polarized culture that we live in, to those whom think like us and believe like us?

I want to use the framework of political ideology for several reasons in this paper.

First, I think it easily gets overlooked, especially among seminary students. It is easy to recognize the exclusion that happens among different races, cultures, and lifestyles, but I think it is harder to recognize when it is about something as personal as how we believe. Politics is that one place you don’t talk about, why? Aren’t we called to love each other in Christian love, and if so does that no mean that we should be able to discuss, embrace, and engage the other, and come to a realization that to love means to not demonize those whom may disagree with your basic position? To often, on both the Religious Left and Religious Right, we are willing to call the other side “less than Christian” if they uphold a position we may not agree with. We have placed our political ideology on top of theology, and in doing so we have closed off relationship with the other.

Second, I’ve seen it happen time and time again where we criticize political leaders as “dirty,” “slimy,” or “crooked,” but if we used those same words to describe others we would be ashamed of ourselves. Again, if we are called to embrace others then should we label leaders in such a way? How does one call the tactics of politics corrupt while still engaging in welcome to those whom we disagree with?

Hopefully, it will get approved. If not, I’m going to have to think of something else.

So What Did We Learn?

Election 2010 is in the books. Though final numbers are not in yet, Republicans picked up a massive 60 seats and will gain control of the House of Representatives. The six Republican pick-ups in the Senate fell short of the 10 needed to control that chamber meaning we will have a split Congress in January.

It is possible to make some analysis of the results, without looking at it from a partisan perspective, and look at what happened last night. So, let’s do so.

Republicans Had a Huge Night: There is no way you can spin this other than it was a major victory for the Republican Party. Some will argue that the fact the Democrats maintained the Senate dampers that victory, but I don’t believe that is accurate in the long term. Republicans now have a position of power in the House and, if things stall in the Senate, have a scapegoat in the Democrats. That could be a potential player in 2012 when the Democrats will have more seats to defend than Republicans in the Senate.

Minorities Make Huge Gains in the GOP: One of the great stories of the night was the huge number of women that were elected, last night, especially when it came to governor mansions. Three women were newly elected last night – Indian-American Nikki Haley (South Carolina), Mary Fallin (Oklahoma), and Hispanic-American Susana Martinez (New Mexico). As well, Jan Brewer was able to hold off her re-election challenge in Arizona. Kelly Ayotte won the Senate race in New Hampshire. Tim Scott was elected in South Carolina as the state’s first African-American member of the House. This is a huge night for minority representation. The fact that it happened within the ranks of the GOP, a party that has often been considered as a party of white males, is impressive.

Popularity Trumps Voter Anger: In West Virginia, it was believed that voter anger against President Obama, especially in relation to views on the coal industry, would elect a Republican Senator to replace the late Robert C. Byrd. That was not the case. Instead, the popular Gov. Joe Manchin easily won election to the remaining two-year term. Manchin will quickly become a major power broker in the Senate because of his ability to win in a conservative-leaning state.

Tea Party Movement is to 2010 as Blue Dog is to 2006/2008: In the Democrat Congressional victories of 2006 and 2008, it was Blue Dog Democrats, those whom are moderate-to-conservative, that helped lead the way. These were Democrats that were more moderate or conservative and were elected in conservative-leaning districts. In 2010, it was Tea Party candidates that led the way, especially in Kentucky where Rand Paul knocked off Jack Conway. I think it is early to really understand the election impact of the Tea Party, but my initial guess is that this could be a player in 2012.

2012 Will Be a Major, Major, Major Campaign: If you believe 2010 was intense, you haven’t seen anything yet. The Election of 2012 sets up to be a major fight and, already, questions are looming for the election. Whom will the GOP nominate? How will President Obama recover from a major defeat last night? Will there be a third-party candidate? Some of these questions will be answered in the days and weeks to come. President Obama is scheduled to speak, this afternoon, and that may give some guidance on how 2012 will play.

And, with that, the 2012 election is now underway.