Sunday, December 10, 2017

God’s Patient Forgiveness

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT): God’s Patient Forgiveness
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise [to come again], as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
Nearly six years ago, when I was thirty-nine, my wife posed an important question: “Why don’t we go to church for Easter?” And my response was immediate: “Are you kidding me?” I said, “What am I some kind of hypocrite?” At that point in my life, church was the farthest thing from my mind. A relationship with Christ meant nothing more than a faint belief buried deep down inside of me, and even that was distorted and tuned out. Going to church, I thought, was going through the motions -- it meant nothing and seemed a waste of time. But God’s grace is amazing, and my life would soon begin a drastic change.
There was no near-death experience, no psychological meltdown, and I did not fall from a horse to the shock of a blinding light. God’s grace simply fell upon me, and I had enough sense to cooperate. And in that time, I began reading the New Testament, starting with Matthew’s Gospel. It is impossible to articulate the power of the holy Spirit and the voice of Christ that I heard in that reading. But something inside of me finally ignited. Reading the Gospel for the first time literally changed my life! This initial conversion experience would be the catalyst for repentance and a new life of faith. And as soon as I shared this joy with my wife, she immediately joined me in what became “our” walk of faith.
St. Peter reminds the Christian community that God is ever patient, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9). Peter gives this early Christian community hope, the same hope we experience today.
The second coming of Christ is a staple of basic Christian understanding. This can happen ten minutes or ten millennia from now. Scripture, however, poses this question: Are we ready? This week’s readings point us to the love of our God who patiently waits. He waits for us to turn to his love, despite our imperfections and blindness. I am a living testament to this.
As we walk together this Advent, let us pray that we experience the loving grace of God in our lives as we, too, wait in expectation of Christ’s coming. And let us share that love with those we encounter.
Have a blessed week!

Stan

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Are We Alert to Jesus All Around Us?

Mark 13:33 (GNT): Are we Alert to Jesus all Around Us?
Jesus said to them, “Be on watch, be alert, for you do not know when the time will come.”
I was recently reminded about the fragility of life. As I read the latest postings in the Google News feed, I am reminded of human vulnerability. Tragedy, scandal, lies, corruption, and advantage-taking comprise a dark theme of living life in our modern world. But it need not be this way.
Life, as many loving people exemplify, is worth living. When we live our lives in anticipation of the good, each moment we face carries the promise of a new joy. A question I often ask myself is as follows: “How does this experience draw me to love more authentically in Christ?” Yes, even the many times when I fail, that question surfaces. To God, our lives are like a beautiful chapter written in his book, but we are a living chapter empowered with free will. We choose whether to turn toward God or not. And it is clear throughout Scripture that God waits and yearns for our turning toward him. This is where, in the above passage, Jesus reminds us to be ready for his return. Our alertness -- our watchfulness -- manifests in our love for those around us.
Does my life reflect a sense of watchfulness for the coming of Christ? It is not a trick question: Jesus is among us as we live and breathe. He is in the voice of a child as they reach out for a consoling hug. He is in the despondent look of a friend who tries to bury their pain but really needs to open up to us. He is in the guise of our spouse who yearns for affection even when we are wiped out after a long day. He is in our memory when we know there is something we need to do to set a relationship right.
Jesus is all around us if we open our eyes and ears to see and hear him. I admit it; watchfulness is a struggle. However, through God’s grace we can choose the path of love. In Christ, let’s do it together!
Let us Pray: Week one of Advent

Lord God, only you can see into my heart and know that under all the busyness of my life, there is a deep longing to make this Advent one that welcomes you more deeply into my own life. My heart desires the warmth of your love and my mind searches for your light in the midst of the darkness. Help me to be a peacemaker this Advent and to give special love to those whom I encounter. We pray in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen. (“One Prayer a Day for Advent”)