Advent 2022: Day 1

2 Peter 3:1-10 – Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.


Bede the Venerable – “All those who love our Lord’s return must have a balanced approach to the whole question. We must not think that it is so near that it will come before time, but neither must we think that it will not come until much later. Rather we must be careful to make sure that, whether Christ comes sooner or later, he will find us ready and waiting for him when he appears.”


Devotional Prayer based on today’s readings

Gracious God, we give you thanks, on this first day of Advent, for the coming of our Lord, Savior, and King, Jesus Christ. You remind us in the gospels that he would be named Jesus for he would save his people from their sins. He is Lord and King of all and Savior of all who call upon him. That you love us and are mindful of even us, we give you our thanks this day.

Father, in a day when “scoffers” will come and deny and/or reject the proclamation and truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we pray for your protection and edification. Strengthen us to stand firm. Yet we pray for loving and tender hearts that help us to not turn our backs on such scoffers, but to patiently reach out to them with the good, life-giving, and life-transforming news of the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Remind us of that time, when things looked bleakest during those three days our Lord was in the tomb, that it was also your plan to raise him from the dead. Remind us again that there will be those who cry out, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” Remind us through your Spirit and inspired Word, that life and history are moving according to your providential plan, and thus, we needn’t worry or turn away from the path you have set before us.

As the venerable Bede put it, “Rather we must be careful to make sure that, whether Christ comes sooner or later, he will find us ready and waiting for him when he appears.” Furthermore, we are able to wait because we know that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” Father, you are caught off guard by nothing; our universe, and all within it, move according to your gracious and sovereign will. Moreover, you are “patient with [us], not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Therefore, in one sense, let us rejoice for every “extra” day our Lord does not return. Let us think of each day as a day of grace, a day for disciples of Jesus Christ to boldly and lovingly declare to scoffers and seekers alike that today can be the day of their salvation. Let us encourage them to put their trust today in the babe of Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus Christ. How good our God is to exercise such patience with us and “delay” his return so that “everyone” may turn to him in repentant faith.

Father, one day it will be too late for us to turn to you in repentance and faith. We pray for each and every person who has not yet done so. We pray that today would be the day of their salvation. Move them through your Spirit. Give them eyes to see and ears to hear. Speak through us and others whom you have redeemed and reconciled to yourself. Our lives are different now because of who you are and what you have done in our lives through Christ the Lord. Let our words and lives awaken others to that possibility in their lives. For it is your desire.

We ask this in the name of the One whose first Advent we begin celebrating today and who will one day come again in glory. Amen.

Praying for God’s Will

The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 49

124. Question: What is the third petition?

Answer: Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. That is: Grant that we and all men may deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey Thy will, for it alone is good.[1] Grant also that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling[2] as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.[3]

[1] Matt. 7:21; 16:24-26; Luke 22:42; Rom. 12:1, 2; Tit. 2:11, 12. [2] I Cor. 7:17-24; Eph. 6:5-9. [3] Ps. 103:20, 21.

Prayer Journal: Week 49

Careful for nothing, prayerful for everything, thankful for anything. (D.L. Moody)

This Week’s Scripture

·         Genesis 45:1-15
·         Psalm 133
·         Romans 11
·         Matthew 15:10-28

Adoration

Romans 11:33, 36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! …36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.Amen.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord (verse 1)
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will
while I am waiting, yielded and still.

(Adelaide A. Pollard)

Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.

Confession

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”. (Matthew 15:18-20)

Dear Jesus, give me the mind that was in you. Put in my heart that spirit of meekness and humility that you showed as you served the poor and the outcast and as you poured yourself out for others. Keep me this day from seeking the praise and affirmation of people; keep me from longing to be thought of as somebody in terms of wealth, fame, influence, and all the other empty toys of the world. Make it my whole and single desire to be somebody in your eyes. In Christ I pray.  Amen. (John Wesley)

As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Thanksgiving

God of tender providence, I praise you for your faithful hand in my life. You sent Joseph ahead of his family to prepare a place for them in Egypt. It cost Joseph many years of pain, suffering, and loneliness, yet he recognized it was your hand guiding and protecting him through it all. He also saw how you were the great Orchestrator who never left him nor forsook him. Similarly, the Lord Jesus went through pain, mockery, alienation, suffering, and death upon the cross for my sake. Yet, he knew it was his purpose and your plan. In and through it he prepared a place for me with you, as Joseph did with his family in Egypt. Indeed, all of my life reveals the fingerprints of your continual care. For your constant love and provision, O Lord, I am grateful. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen. (based on Genesis 45:1-15)

Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.

Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)

·         Spiritual Warfare
·         Growth in Christlikeness
·         Increasing faithfulness in the spiritual disciplines 
·         My health
·         For my ordinary appointments and activities to become divine appointments and activities. 
·         Other needs

Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

·         My Family 
·         Mercy for those who are poor and hungry  
·         Justice for those who are oppressed and persecuted  
·         Love for those who oppress and persecute others
·         Peace for those in the midst of war, crime, and violence   
·         Other needs

It is true that we may desire much more. But let us use what we have, and God will give us more.
(Adoniram Judson)

The Cost of Grace

from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the peril of great price, to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ
.

Ten Commandments Study, Lesson 6: Honor Your Mother and Father

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


[This commandment means] I should love, serve, respect, and care for my parents all their lives, and should obey them in all things that are reasonable and conform to God’s Law. …I also keep the fifth commandment by showing respect for teachers and elders; by obeying, as far as is lawful, those who hold authority in the Church, my employment, and civil government; and by conducting myself in all things with reverent humility before God and my neighbor. (To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism)

But the fifth commandment and similar Bible passages use the vocabulary of fear, honor, and worship, on a human level, to indicate the proper attitude of children to parents. And, moreover, they demand such reverence for parents as a consequence of our reverence for God. Our reverence for parents is not in spite of our reverence for God, but because of it. Deuteronomy 5:16 adds, “as the Lord your God commanded you.” Leviticus 19:32, Ephesians 6:1–3, and Colossians 3:20 also invoke divine sanction for the content of the fifth commandment. Jesus too… strongly defends the fifth commandment, even though he demands for himself a higher honor than for parents. (John Frame)

The terms “father” and “mother” remind those in authority that, like fathers and mothers, they are responsible for and should act in a loving and tender way, appropriately reflecting their particular relationship, toward those under them; and those under them are also encouraged to accept their authority more willingly and cheerfully, as if they were their parents. (Westminster Larger Catechism)

Introduction

In this lesson we move from primarily focusing on our vertical relationship with God to our horizontal relationships with our neighbors. The Ten Commandments are usually understood in the way Jesus defined the Great Commandment. The first tablet, commandments 1-4, emphasize our love for God, while the second tablet, commandments 5-10, focus on neighbor-love. Of course, it’s not quite as neatly divided as that description makes it out to be. For our love for other people, of necessity, shows up in our love for God, expressed in the first four commandments. Moreover, our love for God is the foundation for how we should treat other people. And we show our love for God when we show our love for our neighbors.

As you have no doubt noticed in the previous lessons, there is much more packed into each commandment than meets the eye. That will continue to be true throughout the rest of this study, and this commandment is no exception. The language of “father and mother” encompasses much more than one’s biological parents. Instead, the Israelites would have understood that to mean those in authority over you. The natural starting place is the home. But the impact of this commandment extends out in concentric circles to other spheres of authority, such as one’s teachers, employers, spiritual leaders, and civil government leaders, just to name a few. Yet, as the third quotation above, from the Westminster Larger Catechism emphasizes, those in authority should also act in loving and tender ways to those under their authority.

The last introductory note to emphasize before we get into this lesson is to point out that honor denotes respect and care, and in appropriate seasons of life, circumstances, and relationships, obedience. For example, a child living under his or her parents’ roof, ought to obey the loving guidance and discipline of his or her parents. Later in life, the adult child may choose to honor his or her parent by listening to their advice, but are under no obligation to necessarily obey what the parent’s advise. I hasten to add that honoring one’s parents should extend throughout the parents’ lifetime. As parents age, it is a loving and tender expression of honor to care for them, as parents once cared for their child.

As this lesson will help us understand, to honor one’s parents, or anyone else in authority over us, is ultimately to honor God who set those in authority over us. Yet, honor and obedience to human authority should only be expected insofar as the human authority conforms to the authority of God and his Word. Our first commitment is to God (commandments 1-4). Learning how to honor and respect those in authority over us in the home at a young age, ideally helps us better live in society, thereby making it a stronger and healthier society in which all may live and flourish.


Bible Study (Each chapter in the book is followed by an in-depth Bible study)

Gratitude for Light: A Prayer

O Lord, we give you thanks that you have not left us in the dark to grope blindly through this world. Instead, in your grace and love you have given us your commandments. Help us keep them to the end. Enable us, in your strength, to keep your law and observe it with all our heart. Lead us with your Spirit so that we are not merely doing our duty, but delighting in walking the path you have set before us. Turn us away from the worthless things in this world which distract and lead us astray, and instead, give us the fullness of life you have promised us in Christ our Lord. For it is in his name for his sake we pray. Amen. (from Psalm 119:33-40)

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one

Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art

High King of heaven, my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O ruler of all

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O ruler of all