Questions Which Lead To Faith

                “When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you?  Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus.  You handed Him over to be killed, and you disowned Him before Pilate, though he had decided to let Him go.  You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.  You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.  We are witnesses of this.””

                                                                                                                                                                Acts 3:12-15

                The Scriptures so often ask us the key questions which force us to examine our own walk with the living God.  Such is the case here in the third chapter of the Book of Acts.  In verse 12 we are asked these key questions about our response the healing of the crippled man at the beautiful gate at the Temple in Jerusalem.  “Why does this surprise you?”  “Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”  These are the two key issues we face when it comes to the sign miracles and their significance.  We are astounded that a miracle can even take place.  Then when we accept that the miracle has happened we look for a human source for it.  It is hard for us to accept that God is personally active and intervening in His creation.  I want to take a closer look at what Luke tells us here.

  1. We must ask ourselves about why we are surprised by the sign miracles.  The Scripture teaches that God’s nature is to be a being who reveals Himself to His creation.  Why should this surprise us because we have the testimony of the Word of God that He would in fact do this?  The Scriptures clearly defined what the Messiah would do when He came to us.  The issue we are facing here is one of faith.  Do we believe God when He speaks to us revealing His purposes in grace to us?  Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that “Nothing was impossible with God.”  She accepted that with faith.  Do we?
  2. This sign miracle was done in the Name of the LORD Jesus Christ.  In fact Luke tells us that God did it in the Name of Jesus in order to Glorify Him.  As Luke focuses our attention here he calls our attention to God as One who reveals Himself.  He is “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers.”  These texts draw our attention to a wonderful passage in the Book of Exodus chapter three and verse six.  “Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  There, in the burning bush event God reveals Himself to Moses and speaks His Name “I AM.”  For Peter what the LORD Jesus Christ has done in this crippled man is to reveal Himself as the one who intervenes by the power of His Name.
  3. Luke also tells us here that God has glorified His Servant Jesus.  In Isaiah 53:5 we discover this nugget of truth.  “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”  Why then should is surprise us that He would heal a crippled man?  Why should we attribute that healing to a human source?  The only explanation here is that God is at work through His Holy Servant the LORD Jesus Christ. 
  4. This leads us to our response to Him.  Do we believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Messiah who has come to set us free from sin?  The people that Peter preached to had rejected Him, and their rejection of Him had led to His cross.  God on the other hand had accepted His offering for sin, demonstrating it by raising Him from the dead.  What they were called to do was to repent and believe the Gospel.  This is God’s call upon us today as well.  We must turn from our unbelieving rejection of Him so that we believe God when He tells us that salvation is found in no one else.  The question is will you believe in Him?

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Believing Praise

“I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 71:7

“Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds.  Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 71:17-18

                As we live through these difficult times it is possible that we will do so with a certain degree of bitterness and despair.  It is here that the book of Psalms becomes so very helpful to us.  It was the prophetic worship book of God’s people.  It is still the inspired book of worship songs and hymns for God’s people today.  At its heart is a certain Christ-centredness which causes us to look to the Lord in faith in the middle of the trials and tribulations of our lives.  It is no wonder that many of our most beloved hymns today are based upon the inspired words of the Psalmists.  Such is the case with Isaac Watts and his Hymn “God of My Childhood and My Youth”.

1. God of my childhood and my youth,
The guide of all my days,
I have declared Thy heavenly truth,
And told Thy wondrous ways.

2. Wilt Thou forsake my hoary hairs,
And leave my fainting heart?
Who shall sustain my sinking years,
If God my strength depart?

3. Let me Thy power and truth proclaim
To the surviving age;
And leave a savor of Thy name
When I shall quit the stage.

4. The land of silence and of death
Attends my next remove;
O may these poor remains of breath
Teach the wide world Thy love!

5. Thy righteousness is deep and high,
Unsearchable Thy deeds;
Thy glory spreads beyond the sky,
And all my praise exceeds.

6. Oft have I heard Thy threatenings roar,
And oft endured the grief;
But when Thy hand has pressed me sore,
Thy grace was my relief.

7. By long experience I have known
Thy sovereign power to save;
At Thy command I venture down
Securely to the grave.

8. When I lie buried deep in dust,
My flesh shall be Thy care;
These withering limbs with Thee I trust,
To raise them strong and fair.

Source: The Cyber Hymnal #1918

A New Years Thought on Discipleship

                “While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, He asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”  David himself calls Him ‘Lord’. How then can He be his son?””

                                                                                                                                                                Mark 12:35-37a

                As Mark continues to describe the means that the Lord Jesus Christ used to bring His disciples to faith he takes us further into the teaching of our Lord.  Mark has just presented us with a teacher of the law who is presented as a man who is “not far from the kingdom of God”.  Mark immediately goes on to this question asked of the crowds, and perhaps of the deeply convicted teacher.  It is a question raised by the teaching of the 110th Psalm.  In this Psalm, which was understood to be about the coming Messiah a confusing piece of teaching is given.  David is writing this Psalm about one of his descendants who was believed to be the Christ, the Hebrew Messiah.  As a descendant of David this person is assumed to be inferior to David, but David addresses him as his Lord.  How can this be?  That David was speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and therefore was writing Scripture was understood by all present in the Temple.  What was not understood was how the Messiah could be both David’s descendant and his superior at the same time.  It is this question which Jesus asks the crowd.  The approach that Jesus takes here is to ask a question which will force those who sincerely want an answer to engage in an intense, Spirit directed study of God’s Word in order to discern God’s answer.  James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.”  This is the expectation that the Lord Jesus Christ has for everyone who truly wants to enter into the Kingdom of God. 

                This text tells us several things about the process by which we become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

  1. What is required is that we come to real faith in Christ as He is revealed to us in the Scriptures.  The Lord convicted His hearers on this point.  He asked them questions designed to force them to wrestle with what the Scriptures really taught.  How often do find ourselves failing to take the teaching of Scripture seriously?
  2. He put His disciples in positions where their failure to live up to God’s standards would be exposed.  He does the same to us.  So often we fail to see the reality of our hardness of heart.  Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Kingdom of God.”  He writes “all” not “some”.  The way into God’s Kingdom is always through real humility. 
  3. The Discipleship process for Jesus’ followers was an intense and lengthy one.  There was some much unbelief and hardness of heart to deal with.  Can we expect that it will not be as difficult for us?   If we are to bear fruit for Him then we must expect trials.
  4. He was with them through the whole process.  Not even the atoning death on the cross could remove Him.  On the third day He arose. 
  5. At the heart of the process that Mark describes here is the cross.  Jesus sets His face to obey His Father by going to the cross.  The teaching of the Gospels is that we to must travel the way of the Cross if we are to be Disciples of Christ.

The Grace of Christmas

A number of years ago we reflected upon Matthew Henry’s exposition of the account in Matthew’s Gospel of Joseph’s reaction to the news of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Henry points us to the mystery and wonder of that special birth and how Joseph responded eventually by faith in God’s revelation about it.  Such obedient faith cuts to the heart of what the Christmas story teaches us.  There we encounter a God who breaks into our world in sacrificial love in order to redeem us through the cross.

                This year I want to reflect upon another thought from Matthew Henry.  This one comes from an exposition of John 1:14 where we read that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the only begotten who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The Word that the Apostle John uses in this verse, translated as dwelling, is the word tabernacle.  It is a word that refers us back to the account in the Old Testament book of Exodus in which the Tabernacle was created as a temporary, mobile tent in which God’s people could meet with Him.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon quotes from Henry as he seeks to explain just what the significance of this tent was to God’s people. 

                Spurgeon writes, “Now, you remember that in the Jewish Church its greatest glory was that God tabernacle in its midst: not the tent of Moses, not the various pavilions of the princes of the twelve tribes, but the humble tabernacle in which God dwelt, was the boast of Israel.  They had the King Himself in the midst of them, a present God in their midst.  The Tabernacle was a tent to which men went when they would commune with God, and it was the spot to which God came when He would commune with man.  To use Matthew Henry’s words, it was the “trysting place” between the Creator and the Worshipper.  Here they met each other through the slaughter of the bullock and the lamb, and there was reconciliation between them twain.  Now, Christ’s human flesh was God’s tabernacle, and it is in Christ that God meets with man, and it is in Christ that man has dealings with God.  The Jew of old went into God’s tent, in the centre of the camp, if he would worship: we come to Christ if we would pay our homage.  If the Jew would be released from ceremonial uncleanness, after he had performed the rites, he went up to the sanctuary of his God, that he might feel again that there was peace between God and his soul; and we, having been washed in the precious blood of Christ, have access with boldness unto God, even the father through Christ, who is our tabernacle and the tabernacle of god among men.” 

                Because of this tremendous blessing the God has given to us in Christ we can come to God in worship and praise.  This is the heart of the Christmas account of God’s miraculous delivery of us from sin. 

                If you are in the Brampton area and do not have a Church to attend you are welcome to join us on Sunday December 23rd at 11AM for a special Christmas Sunday Service.  We also pray that you will be able to join us on Monday December 24th at 7PM for a Christmas Eve celebration.  I know that each service will be a blessing to every one of us. 

                We pray that you will receive God’s richest blessings in this Christmas season and in the coming year.

Where Is Your Faith?

““Where is your faith?”  He asked His disciples.  In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the wind and the water, and they obey Him.””

                                                                                                                                                                Luke 8:25

                Reading Crawford Loritt’s essay “Jesus’ Transforming Power on Behalf of the Afflicted” got me to thinking about a great need in the local Church.  It is one which has been occupying an increasing amount of my thinking in recent years.  This is our need for a growing involvement in dependant prayer.  Loritt begins his essay with the following reflection.

“In 2002, in the space of about thirty-six hours, I received an avalanche of bad news. I had just returned home after visiting my sister, who had had surgery. The surgeon was cautiously optimistic that he and his team had removed all of the cancer cells. Then I got a call informing me that that was not the case. She had also contracted a virus and wasn’t expected to survive. Then I got another call from our oldest son, who was rushing to the hospital with his infant son, our first grandchild, who had a very high fever and had suffered a seizure. Then the phone rang again. My wife’s aunt, who was more like a second mother to her, had just died unexpectedly. On top of all of this, I was right in the middle of dealing with a crisis facing our ministry. This rapid sequence of events sent me a very clear message: Crawford, you can’t handle this. This is the time for aggressive surrender and dependence. You need God to step into what you and Karen are facing. Get to God, and he will get to what you are facing. His Presence is what you need.” (from “His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (The Gospel Coalition)” by D. A. Carson, Kathleen Nielson, John Piper, Colin S. Smith, Crawford W. Loritts, Kevin DeYoung, Stephen T. Um, Gary Millar, Timothy J. Keller

                Just today I was reminded of these thoughts from the pen of Richard Lovelace in The Dynamics of the Spiritual Life, which is a book which every Christian who is serious about the renewal of the Church must read.

“If all regenerate church members in Western Christendom were to intercede daily simply for the most obvious spiritual concerns visible in their homes, their workplaces, their local churches and denominations, their nations, and the world and the total mission of the body of Christ within it, the transformation which would result would be incalculable.

Not only would God certainly change those situations in response to prayer – we have Christ’s word that if we ask in his name he will do more than we ask or think – but the church’s comprehension of its task would attain an unprecedented sharpness of focus.

Perhaps much of our prayer now should simply be for God to pour out such a spirit of prayer and supplication in the hearts of his people.”

            The call is to dependant praying as individuals and as Congregations of Believers.  This means that we must, recognise our helplessness apart from God’s intervention, become aware of the limitless power and resources of God, and cast ourselves daily upon the mercy of God. 

We must become a people of dependant prayer once again. ity73 \

An Astonishing Invitation

                “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

                                                                                                                                                                Galatians 1:6-7

                How often have you found yourselves to be truly astonished by the things which you witness or experience?  You find yourselves in the middle of a set of circumstances that stretch your comprehension to the breaking point and you are left wondering just what this will mean for you and for others.  For a little while you find yourself struggling to understand how to respond to the things which you have witnessed.  In the summer of 1972 one such event happened in my life when I found myself responding to a set of disappointing circumstances by becoming bitter of spirit.  While struggling with this inward bitterness I found myself at a youth retreat.  The fact that I was there reluctantly and with a determination to involve myself in any positive way made the events that took place that weekend all the more astonishing.  While sitting through a worship service I found myself encountering such a strong impression of the love of God that I found myself yielding to the LORD Jesus Christ as Saviour and LORD.  In an instant everything in my life was changed.  Years later I found myself agreeing with John Wesley who wrote regarding his own conversion experience that, “I found my heart strangely warmed, and knew that my sins had been forgiven.”  This was my experience and it was very much as if the LORD Jesus Christ had called me to His grace.  I seemed to sense that that was the time for me to come to His grace.  The moment of decision had come unsought.  It was astonishing and completely life transforming. 

                The Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Galatians that this Gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ is a truly liberating thing.  It delivers us from this actively evil world and brings us into the liberty of Christ.  It does this by calling us to repent and to put our faith in the LORD Jesus Christ who is the Son of the Living God and who became human flesh in order to bear our sins upon His cross.  Just this morning a group of us were sharing at a Bible Study  and reflecting upon the fact that what was taking place on the cross of Christ was that the LORD Jesus Christ was bearing all of our sin, all of our brokenness, everything that keeps us away from communion with the Living God, in His body.  Therefore He understands and identifies with every part of our current struggle.  When we feel guilty over our sin, He reminds us that He bore that, and it is forgiven.  He was at all points tempted as we are yet without sin.  What precious freedom this brings into our lives when we begin to see what He has done for us.  What prayerfulness this creates in us when we understand that there is nothing that we can ever bring before the LORD which He has not already borne.  Imagine that you were to go onto a website for an organization which promises that it has made provision to deal with every circumstance you might face in life.  No matter what you describe there is a plan to deal with it.  No matter how costly provision has been made to deal with your circumstance graciously because the organization has already paid for it.  Would you not rush to receive the grace that was being offered to you?

                Imagine further that you were to discover that some people having received knowledge of this gracious gift turned away from it in order to pursue another plan that did not deal adequately with your need and which enslaved you to the evil principles of this world.  Would you not be astonished by this turn of events?  This is the point that the Apostle Paul is at in Galatians one.  Those who had made a start with the LORD Jesus Christ are now deserting Him for something that could not hope to save them.

                Years ago the LORD Jesus Christ called me to grace.  In receiving that grace I found myself meeting one who set me free from sin by bearing it for me.  He gave His life that I may be set free from this evil world so that I might live in His glorious light.  It was astonishing that He might be so gracious to one who was so bound up in sin.  I have never regretted accepting His invitation.  Perhaps today you have heard Him inviting you to receive His grace.  Today is the day of salvation for you.  How will you respond?

Christmas Season

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

                                                                                                                                                                Isaiah 7:14

                A number of years ago at a Ministerial meeting the question was asked about what we enjoyed about the Christmas season.  This got me to thinking about what I really do enjoy about this season.  To be sure there is much to be enjoyed in this season.  I love gathering with my family.  I love giving gifts to loved ones.  I really love the Christmas services at the Church.  I especially love the singing of Christmas Carols.  Every year there is the joyful celebration that takes place when the Sunday School children present their Nativity Play.  Nothing is better that a well presented Choir Cantata at Christmas time as we will be experiencing this week when our choir presents Joel Raney’s “The Promise of Light”.

                The question remains however, what do I enjoy most about the Christmas season?  My answer focuses upon the message of the Incarnation.  This season gives us an opportunity to explore in depth the great miracle of our faith.  This is that God’s Son came into this world, becoming flesh like us but without sin.  So often in the Scripture the Incarnation is the centre of the argument.  In Hebrews the fact that God spoke through His Incarnate Son takes centre place.  There is no salvation if the Son of God did not become flesh.  I am reminded of Augustine’s point that “there is no hope apart from the grace of the Incarnation.”  Here is where our hope comes from.  It is something which we could never do for ourselves no matter how hard we might try. 

What we could never do for ourselves God did for us.  Think about this astounding miracle a tiny, helpless baby born in the town of Bethlehem; just where Micah said the Messiah would be born, laid in a manger in a stable, this child was in fact the Son of the Living God.  In that child, so helpless lay the hope of the whole world.  For many, alive at that time, they were completely unaware of what had taken place.  Would you, or I, have recognised that that particular baby was your only hope?  Some thirty years later that baby would go to a Roman cross to die bearing our sin.  None of that would have mattered if it were not for the Incarnation for it was God who died for us. The message of the Incarnation is that point where we discover that our God is a being who loves us so much that He enters into our lives in order to redeem us.  At a time in history when there is so much that makes us feel hopeless this is our message of hope.  The same God who gave us the gift of His only begotten Son is at work among us.  The Word of God tells us that our Redeemer is at the right hand of His Father interceding for us.  Very soon He will come back in order to receive us to Himself.  When He does come we will be like Him, without sin, enjoying His presence for Eternity.  This is what I enjoy most about this season.

The Road To The Cross

“But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”   And all the others said the same.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Mark 14:31

                ““My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.””

                                                                                                                                                                                Mark 14:34

                “Then everyone deserted Him and fled.  A young man wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus.  When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Mark 14:50-52

                One of the themes which Mark develops as he presents to us the Gospel which he received from the Apostle Peter is the road to discipleship which was followed by the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Contained in this Gospel of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is the titanic spiritual struggle which was going on in the hearts and minds of the disciples.  One would think that the disciples had it easy.  They had front row seats to the greatest drama that ever took place in history.  God had become flesh and dwelt among them.  They witnessed all that He did.  Imagine what they saw.  What would your faith be like if you saw what they saw?    However Mark presents them in all of their hard hearted unbelief.  In this they are not unlike you and me.  Each of us has to go through the same struggle which we see in them.

There is a reason for this.  Real saving faith is always the result of a deep encounter with Christ crucified.  What we see in the fourteenth chapter of Mark is the disciples being led along on the road to the cross of Christ.  As He has repeatedly told them the Lord Jesus Christ is about to be crucified.  On the third day He will be raised.  All of this, every part of it down to the smallest detail will be in fulfillment of the Scripture.  This in itself will require a whole new reading of the Word of God.  What they had been taught would have to be put away so that they could understand the Word that God was really saying to them.  As these disciples approached the cross of Christ all of the stresses contained in the situation they were facing were on the verge of overwhelming them.  Jesus was not behaving as a true Messiah should, or so they thought.  What did all this mean?

At the heart of the issues they were facing was the necessity of them bearing their own cross.  Jesus was not the only one on the way to the cross.  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)  This is the issue.  This is what we discover being lived out by the disciples as they arrive at the garden of Gethsemane.  They have made great boasts about what they think they can do in their own flesh.  The problem is that they have misunderstood themselves.  They are not nearly as strong as they think they are.  Within a few short hours they will all be fleeing.  Peter will follow Jesus to His trial but then, instead of dying with Jesus he will deny Him.  They will discover that they are weak and unbelieving human beings.  When tried they would be found wanting.

If they are ever to follow Jesus they are going to have to go through this trial.  These disciples must be crucified with Christ, dying to all of their fleshly, boasting and self reliance.  The cross will lead to the resurrection.  In fact it is the only way forward.  That is true for the disciples.  It is true for us as well.  There really is no other way to be a disciple of Christ.

Magnifying the LORD

“Let all those that seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee: and let such as love Thy salvation say continually, ‘Let Elohim be magnified.’”

                                                                                                                                                Psalm 70:4

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

                                                                                                                                                Philippians 1:20-21

What a precious little Psalm is this seventieth one.  Here we have a brief prayer, in a grouping of Messianic prayer Psalms, a statement of what is at the heart of the believing life.  Psalm 4b states “Let Elohim be magnified.”  In making this statement the Psalmist confronts us with a crucial question.  Did we truly magnify the LORD today?  The word used here means to enlarge Him.  Through my attitude and behavior today did I cause the view that others have of the LORD to be enlarged?  Such a question must be answered biblically.

“Erich Auerbach (1953: 14–15) captured this when he wrote: The Bible’s claim to truth is not only far more urgent than Homer’s, it is tyrannical – it excludes all other claims. The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historically true reality – it insists that it is the only real world, is destined for autocracy. All other scenes, issues, and ordinances have no right to appear independently of it, and it is promised that all of them, the history of all mankind, will be given their due place within its frame, will be subordinated to it. The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us – they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.” (from “With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology (New Studies in Biblical Theology 32)” by Jr. James M. Hamilton)
                Have we been conquered by the Bible?  Has its message reached deep into our lives and remade us?  In this precious little Psalm we have the prayer of the Messiah in which we are confronted by a clear choice.  Are we among those who are seeking His death through our unbelief?  Or are we among those who through faith are seeking Him and the salvation He brings?  If we love His salvation we will be finding ourselves magnifying Him with every part of our lives.

To choose Christ means to be made over into a new creation.  This can be defined as living in the grace of God in a way that magnifies the LORD in all of our living or dying.  Such a life is a biblical one.  We are called to be subject to the Word of God.  Of first importance then is that we know and apply the Word of God to our lives.  This requires that we make them our priority.  We must read, and study, the Bible applying it to our day to day living.

Whenever we wish to excel at a task it is essential that we must put work into mastering it.  If we are to become knowledgeable in the Bible then we must spend time and effort in its study.  This is the only way in which we can begin to magnify the LORD Jesus Christ.  Such a life must be lived joyfully and lovingly.  It is not a duty that we must grit our teeth and endure.  It is a joy which we live in His grace.  We love the salvation that He has graciously given to us in Christ.  It is God’s work in us and it is glorious.

The question for us is this.  Does this joy and love show itself clearly in our day to day living?

An Advent Reflection

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea.  You will be true to Jacob and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.”

                                                                                                                                                                Micah 7:18-20

Here is a repeat of a post from past years, which with a few alterations focuses upon the coming Advent Season which begins this week. 

                This coming Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent.  For many this will be a delightful season in which we begin to sing Christmas carols.  Those songs of the Incarnation always seem to move our hearts in joyful worship.  I must confess that I love singing the Christmas carols, as they are among some of the most delightful of the hymns of the Church.  Advent looks ahead to the main event, the celebration of Christmas itself.  We love every part of that day.  We eagerly anticipate its coming each year.

This week I looked up the definition of advent and made some discoveries.  For the Christian Church Advent is a season of anticipation where we look forward to the coming of our Redeemer, the Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ.  With this anticipation of His arrival we find ourselves immersed in hope that all that His coming means with become reality in our lives.  As Phillips Brooks writes in his masterful hymn “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”  That line from O Little Town of Bethlehem captures our mood as we enter into advent this year.

There is however a third element to the definition of Advent for the Christian Church.  This is the call to repentance which the season brings.  John the Baptist came and called people to prepare the way of the Lord.  In doing so John was letting his world and ours know that any communion with God requires repentance.  We must turn to Him.  This was as well the message of the Prophets.  They were sent to call God’s people back to Him.  Their message is filled with the word of the Advent.  God is coming among us.  Isaiah even has a Word or a Name to designate His coming, Emmanuel, God with us.  Therefore it should not surprise us that a substantial portion of the focus of Advent is upon the Prophetic message.

That message consistently confronts us with the character of the God we worship.  Micah writes, “Who is a God like you?”  In fact that is the meaning of the Prophet’s name.  This is a key thought for us to focus upon this Advent season.  What do the Scriptures tell us about the character of God?  How is this reflected in the mighty works which He accomplished in the Incarnation of Christ?

Here we encounter the God of grace who became human flesh and dwelt among us so that He could redeem us from our sin.  The only response that is adequate to such great grace is one of believing worship.