Tag Archives: Advent

Claiming Your Unclaimed Inheritance


Government custodians are holding over $58 billion in unclaimed money owed 80 million missing owners and heirs. Have you ever received a notice that you may be one of those missing heirs? Did you go online to check? If you did, I hope you found something of value and didn’t come up empty.

But are you aware of an even greater inheritance that is yours – with much less paperwork and effort? In preparing for Christmas I’m reminded that in sending His Son Jesus as His ultimate love gift to us, God has left the greatest inheritance of all. And you are an heir because through Jesus you hold a powerful position. The Apostle Paul wrote “What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons…” (Galatians 4:1-6)

Consider the phrase “Because you are his sons…” In Paul’s day the first-born son was the top dog and heir – everything would be his. If something happened to him then the next son would get everything. In no case would a daughter ever be the heir and get anything. So Paul was being progressive and radical by saying “Because you are sons…” Even the women – the third and fourth born, the cousins, the grandkids, you, me. All of us! We have been given the full rights of a natural born, mature heir. The Roman father had the discretion to determine when a son was “of age” to become the legal heir to his estate. Until that time the son had no more access to the inheritance than a slave. So Paul says God chose the time when Jesus came and gave us our inheritance. He paid the price; through no merit of our own we have the full rights of natural born sons. As the apostle John wrote (1Jn. 3:1), “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Perhaps you can recall the thrill and honor of being chosen for that starring role, or making the team, or winning the award, or being elected to that key position, or receiving that honor or recognition, or getting that job you so desperately desired; it only pales in comparison with the thrill, honor, and privilege of being chosen by God, of being granted full status, equal with his Son, Jesus. That’s right – equal to the status of Jesus. We are His brothers and sisters!

Think about that. Whatever belongs to Christ belongs to us! We have the same name, the same inheritance, the same position, the same rights as Jesus! When so many people are having identity crises, trying to find out who they are, trying to discover their inner selves, searching for their roots, trying to build their sense of self-worth on their achievements – we can be secure in the knowledge that we are positioned as children of God the Father, in equal standing with Jesus! It doesn’t get any better than this! As the Living Bible paraphrases verse 7, we have access to “everything God has.” Whatever belongs to Christ belongs to us. We don’t need to earn it, buy it, deserve it – it’s ours!

And we can begin to draw on it even now! The Bible tells us God has made available to us the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7), the riches of His glory (Phil. 4:19), the riches of His goodness (Rom. 2:4), and the riches of His wisdom (Rom. 11:33).

There’s an old story about a farm family who, many years ago, lived in dire poverty. One Christmas someone sent them their first mirror. The teen-aged boy saw himself for the first time. He said to his mother: “Mom, look how ugly I am. How can you love me when you see how dirty and ugly I am?” She put her arm around him and with tears in her eyes replied, “Because you are mine.” The truth is, it’s not who we are but whose we are that really matters. This is the secret of our dignity and worth as persons. It is through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we have such a position of status and prestige! We are full and legal heirs of all God has to offer! We have a right to claim it all for we have a powerful position. As you prepare for Christmas remember that the Son of God became the Son of Man so the children of men could become the children of God. Go ahead – claim your inheritance. You won’t come up empty!

Will Photo from www.storyblocks.com                                                    Trophy Photo by Ariel Besagar on Unsplash                                                        Mirror Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash

Break Ins


Have you ever been the victim of a robbery? Over the years I have had an office, a church and a home broken into. It’s upsetting to have someone forcibly enter into our private space. It arouses, among other emotions fear, anger, distrust and suspicion. We feel threatened. Our private space is meant to be just that – private. The space belongs to us. It’s a place of security and safety. It is, we believe, ours by right. So it’s shattering when it is invaded.

I wonder if that’s why some people resist God. He is, after all, the Master at breaking in. He breaks into our personal, private spaces. He invades our time, talents and treasures. He wants to plant our steps, direct our decisions, plan our plans, provide our thoughts and manage our circumstances. He wants exclusive rights to our hearts. He arouses, among other emotions fear, anger, distrust and suspicion. He can be threatening.

Yet at this Advent time of year we celebrate God’s breaking into our lives in the most personal of ways. It was personal for Him: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” It was personal for us: “…that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And it was an answer to the prayers of His people. Consider the payer of Isaiah (64:1-12):

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have given us over to our sins.
8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look on us, we pray,
for we are all your people.
10 Your sacred cities have become a wasteland;
even Zion is a wasteland, Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors praised you,
has been burned with fire,
and all that we treasured lies in ruins.
12 After all this, Lord, will you hold yourself back?
Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?

This was a prayer on behalf of Israel for God to ‘come down’, to break in, to invade their private spaces, to rescue their lives and souls. Eventually God broke in. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

It is my hope and prayer that during this advent season you will be expectant and aware of how often God breaks into your life. Mother Frances Dominica wrote of this poignantly:

“He leads through all the events, all the circumstances of your life. Nothing in your life is so insignificant, so small, that God cannot be found at its centre. We think of God in the dramatic things the glorious sunsets, the majestic mountains, the tempestuous seas; but he is the little things too, in the smile of a passer-by or the gnarled hands of an old man, in a daisy, a tiny insect, falling leaves. God is in the music, in laughter and in sorrow too. And the grey times, when monotony stretches out ahead, these can be the times of steady, solid growth into God.

God may make himself known to you through the life of someone who, for you, is an ambassador for God, in whom you can see the beauty and truth and the love of God…It may be that there is someone who loves you so deeply that you dare to believe that you are worth loving and so you can believe that God’s love for you could be possible after all. Sometimes it is through tragedy or serious illness that God speaks to our hearts and we know him for the first time. There is no limit to the ways in which God may make himself known. At every turn in our lives there can be a meeting place with God…God makes his home in you (John 14:23).Isn’t this the answer to all our yearning, our searching, our anguish, to all the longing, the incompleteness of our lives and loving? (1)

May you recognize and celebrate God’s break-ins into your life in this season of His coming.

(1) From Prayer, by Mother Frances Dominica, as quoted in A Guide to Prayer, Rueben P. Job, Norman Shawchuck, The Upper Room, Nashville TN, © 1983


The Great Yearly Adventure

In my faith tradition we call this time of the year Advent. It began in France during the fourth century and is a season of four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday closest to what is known as St. Andrews Day, November 30. The word “advent” consists of two Latin words and means, “to come to.” In other words this is the time of year to focus on the incredible news that God – our divine, holy God – came to earth, came to us. I’m convinced it is difficult for us to fully grasp the impact of this claim.

Consider that at the time of Jesus’ birth people believed in a variety of gods, and all of those gods were separated from humanity. To think that a god or goddess would lower themselves and mingle with humans was tantamount to blasphemy. After all, a holy god could not rub shoulders with the unholy. Yet that’s precisely what the Almighty God did. He had, in fact, come down before, but never to stay. The Psalmist, for example, knew that God paid visits. (Psalm 18: 9, 16, 35) “He parted the heavens and came down…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters…you stoop down to make me great.” But in his gospel, the Apostle John declared (John 1:14NLT): “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” God, in Jesus, prostituted himself by coming down and living among the muck, mud and mire of humanity – and He came to stay.

He came to be and stay with me. He came to be and stay with you. It’s why I cherish the Advent season – it points us back to this great ADVENTure. God made the journey to earth so He could be with us and we could be with Him. Advent celebrates the reality that God did come – in the flesh, in Jesus (a past experience), God still comes to us through the Holy Spirit (a present experience), and that God will come again through the return of Jesus (a future experience). In Jesus, God has come into the world as the King of Kings. So the color of the season is purple, as a reminder of a king’s robe (or it can be blue as the symbol of hope.)

Our emphasis, therefore, is to see this season as a great ADVENTure – to use it as a time of preparation, and an opportunity to get ready for His coming. The theme of repentance, prayer, and patient waiting are keys to our observance. It is, in fact, interesting to note that in ancient times Christians were required to attend church services and to fast daily.

I invite you to join this great ADVENTure because it is rich with meaning and promise. And it makes a difference. It can change your life. I encourage you to look back and see how God has fulfilled His promises, and contemplate how He continues to do so. Then look ahead, and renew your hope. And prepare for God to come into your life now in new, fresh ways. Give God a chance to reveal His purposes for your life. Spend some extra time reading and reflecting upon God’s Word, praying, worshiping, and giving yourself to others. It’s a small price to pay. After all, “… God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That ADVENTure makes a difference that’s worth taking time to celebrate!

What I’ve Learned from a Cactus

cactusA Christmas Cactus is a unique, mysterious yet glorious plant. We’ve had one for over 40 years. For most of the year it’s not much to look at. But as Christmas and Easter approach it springs into full bloom. I don’t understand how it is so regular (especially since Easter varies form year to year); I just know it is. I can count on it blooming. And every time it does I am reminded of several truths.

I am, for example, reminded that our cactus is very much like many people – they show up for worship only at Christmas and Easter. Their faith blossoms twice a year. But that’s a subject, perhaps, for another time.

I am, more significantly, reminded that life is only in full bloom through Jesus. Life blossomed fully (Christmas) when Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly, to the full. Life blossomed fully (Easter) when Jesus rose form the dead so we could dwell with Him. Jesus came down not only to be with us but to lift us up. The blooming of our cactus is, for me a stark reminder that only Jesus can provide fullness of life.

Then, too, I remember that the cactus blooms every year, on time, no matter what. Trust me – it has survived most everything. Our plant came from my parents who got it from my grandparents. Grandma used to keep it upstairs, in the dark and in cooler temperatures, where it seldom got watered. Still it bloomed. The original plant has been spliced and divided among children and grandchildren. All the shoots bloom. Our original spliced plant has been divided often – even knocked over and broken by boys, being boys, playing soccer in the house. Still it blooms. We’ve had other cactus and plants, which we’ve treated and cared for more carefully – they’ve died. But not the Christmas Cactus. So every time it blooms – on time – I’m reminded that God is likewise faithful. He always comes on time – never too soon or too late. No matter how tough the day or how difficult life might be at the moment, God comes right on time.

The apostle Paul grasped this well. “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7 NLT) “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:6-8 NLT) Could it be God created the Christmas Cactus to remind us of His faithfulness?

Helen Steiner Rice poignantly captures the spirit of our Christmas Cactus in what has become one of my favorite poems. May it give you encouragement and hope.

“What More Can You Ask”

God’s love endureth forever –
What a wonderful thing to know
When the tides of life run against you
And your spirit is downcast and low…

God’s kindness is ever around you,
Always ready to freely impart
Strength to your faltering spirit,
Cheer to your lonely heart…

God’s presence is ever beside you,
As near as the reach of your hand,
You have but to tell Him your troubles,
There is nothing He won’t understand…

And knowing God’s love is unfailing,
His mercy unending and great,
You have but to trust in His promise –
“God comes not too soon or too late”.
So wait with a heart that is patient
For the goodness of God to prevail –
For never do prayers go unanswered,
And his mercy and love never fail.

Time Out

The Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas seasons have the potential to be exciting and  beautiful. I said, “have the potential” because research shows that for many it is depressing – loneliness increases, broken relationships are magnified, families get unusually stressed, and indebtedness grows. These are some of the reasons the suicide rate increases at this time of year.  I’m not trying to be morbid – just trying to make a point. For all its glory and grace, this time of has become a struggle to survive. And even if none of the above is true for you, there is a common ground for all of us – we dread Thanksgiving to year-end because we know we’ll be way too busy.

With that in mind, this anonymous piece from a daily clergy email devotional I received makes an important point. May it be both a challenge and a blessing.

“Satan called a worldwide convention.  In his opening address to his evil angels, he said “We can’t keep the Christians from going to church.  We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth.  We can’t even keep them from conservative values.  But we can do something else.  We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship in Christ.  If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.  So let them go to church, let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time so they can’t gain that experience in Jesus Christ.  This is what I want you to do, angels.  Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!”

“How shall we do this?” shouted his angels.

“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent unnumbered schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered.  “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow.  Convince the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6 or 7 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles.  Keep them from spending time with their children.  As their family fragments, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work. Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that small still voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive, to keep the TV, VCR, DVDs, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their homes.  And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical, contradictory music constantly.  This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.  Fill coffee-tables with magazines and newspapers.  Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day.  Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk-mail, sweepstakes, mail-order catalogues and every kind of newsletter and offering products, services and false hopes.”

“Even in their recreation let them be excessive.  Have them return from the recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week.  Don’t let them go nature to reflect on God’s wonders.  Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions. Let them be involved in soul-winning, but crowd their lives with so many causes they have no time to seek power from Christ.  Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”

It was quite a convention in the end.  The evil angels went to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.

Has the devil been successful in his scheme?  You be the judge.

How about this definition of BUSY:

Being Under Satan’s Yoke

Satan’s goal is to take our minds away from Christ and steer us towards the cares of the world.  God wants us to enjoy life, but He must be first.  If we are too busy for God, then we are too busy!”

Take Time Clock Meaning Rest And Relax

Slow down – and Have a peaceful, blessed holiday season!