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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for Advent December 11, 2017

Matthew 22: 23-33

Text: Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, for know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. (v. 29)

It was once said of John Calvin that when he was lecturing on the Creation story of Genesis 1, a heckler shouted, “If you’re so smart, what was God doing before He created the heavens and the earth?!” Without missing a beat ol’ Calvin replied, “He was creating hell for overly curious people like you!!” The story may be apocryphal but it makes a point.

Too many people who say that they are Jesus followers are more judgmental than the Almighty they profess to know! When I was younger I thought that I knew all of Life’s answers. But then Real Life happened. My preconceived notions and easy answers crumbled like a graham cracker pie crust. It was then that I understood something else that Calvin was purported to have said; we should speak when the Bible speaks and be silent when the Bible is silent.

I no longer try to understand the ways of God. I don’t know what God is really doing. I tell Him that often. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, God’s ways are not my ways nor are God’s purposes my purposes.

But God is at work in this world. It is best to try to get in the flow of what God is doing, to “ride” God’s wave for it is then that we see glimpses of Grace all around us.

Lord, give a humble heart that listens more than it speaks and has the wisdom to know when to be silent. Amen

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 9, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 22: 15-22

Text: (Jesus replied), “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (v. 21)

I am not a good swimmer. I am a poor swimmer, in fact. My parents tried, though. They registered me for swim lessons at the local YMCA, but I never progressed much beyond a “dead man’s float.”

I was afraid of the water and never liked getting my head wet. Part of this fear was well founded. When I was about 8 or 9 years old I had a terrible case of “swimmer’s ear” after swimming in a neighbor’s pool.  I never forgot that experience.

A couple of winters I decided that swimming would be a great full body exercise. So, I signed up for adult swim lessons. I’ve gotten better, but I am still very much of a raw amateur.

Bearing this in mind, I plan my swims during the slowest time of “adult swim”. Often I am the only one in the pool. Occasionally, though, the pool is crowded and someone will ask to “share a lane” with me. I warn them that I’m just a beginner and that more often than not I swim in a zigzag line within the lane. They never seem to mind, but I have an added worry. Not only do I have to focus on breathing lest I swallow water and come up coughing, now I have to worry about staying out of their way! I have to “stay in my own lane.”

When Jesus was asked about paying taxes to Caesar he replied by inquiring whose “image” was on the coin. “Caesar’s”, he was told. “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”  His inquisitors didn’t see that response coming. They were left essentially speechless, for you see, Jesus essentially told them to “swim in their own lane.”

What they didn’t understand, though, was that God “owns the pool”!  “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,” the Psalmist proclaimed (24:1) Everything  … EVERYTHING… ultimately belongs to God; even our very lives. We are mere servants of the King.

So, the question to ask ourselves in this Advent season is, “How good of a servant are we of the King? In other words, “Are we good stewards of the King’s things?”

Lord God, give me a wise heart so that I  may “swim in my own lane”. Give me a generous spirit so that I can be the steward, the vessel that you intend me to be in this world. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for Advent, December 8, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 22: 1-14

Text: “Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” (v. 9)

The Kingdom of God is like a wedding reception, Jesus said in this parable. And there is definitely a different feel to a wedding reception and a wedding ceremony. At the reception, the pressure of the wedding ceremony is over. The bride can bustle up her dress and join her husband in thanking the guests who attended the ceremony. The reception is a time of toasts and laughter, food and fellowship, kicking off shoes and dancing in stocking feet!

In the parable Jesus told about a king who sent special delivery invitations to those he thought loved him. But when they “blew him off” he realized that they didn’t really love him. They merely used him!  He valued the relationship more than they did! This realization was a kick in gut.   Therefore he sent out a second invitation. This one was a blanket invitation to invite everyone! It was even sent to you and me!

In this season of Advent I encourage you to think about a couple different but related things. First, Jesus wants us to invite everyone to God’s party. God does not want to leave anyone out. Don’t be discouraged if not everyone accepts. Your job is to invite.

Second, do you allow other things to get in the way of your relationship with “the King”?Does God get your best or your leftovers? I truly believe that if we seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness that everything else in life will fall into place; everything, our spiritual, family, work, and social responsibilities. But, that is another glimpse for another time.

Lord, direct my thoughts as I reflect upon where I place Your invitation to fellowship in my life. Amen. 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotional for December 7, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 21:33-46.

Text: I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. (v. 43)

Probably noting produces more regret than missed opportunity. In A Christmas Carol when the Spectre (Ghost) of Christmas Past took Scrooge back to his younger self something in the old miser’s conscience stirred. Seeing himself as a child sitting alone in a run down boarding school he wished that he would have been kinder to the caroler who had come to his shop the previous late afternoon.

When, in a later scene, he saw his beloved sister Fan telling him that he could come home because “Father is so much kinder now,” he regretted how meanly he declined his only nephew’s invitation to share a cup of holiday cheer. These were glimpses of grace that allowed Scrooge’s to shed the spiritual barnacles that encased his heart for too long. Sadly, opportunities pass as quickly as they come.

In today’s reading Jesus told a parable directed at the “holier-than-thou” religious people of the day. You know who they are; they are the ones to are quick to judge others, too-sure of who’s a Christian and who isn’t a Christian. They are so sure of their own understanding of the nature of God, which have been solidified by the cement of their own prejudices, that they can recognize neither the True God nor God’s Kingdom in their midst.

It has been said that there are none so blind as those who will not see. In this season of Advent we are well advised to reflect upon our prejudices and preconceived notions of both God and others.  In humility we need to seek God and ask God to allow us, as much as humanly possible, to see this world through God’s eyes. We need to practice the spiritual discipline of being slow to judge and quick to forgive.*

Lord God, give me spiritual insights that shake the spiritual barnacles off of my heart so that I may, day by day, be a truer reflection of Jesus, the very revelation of Your Eternal Self in this Temporal world. Amen.

*At some time in the future I will write about the nature of “Forgiveness”, a greatly misunderstood concept.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 6, 2017

Daily Reading: Matthew 21: 23-32. Text: “Which of the two did the will of his father?” (v. 31a)

The parable Jesus told is familiar to any parent. You asked your children to straighten up their room or put their toys away. The “good” child says they will but somehow never gets around to doing it. Meanwhile the “strong-willed” or “defiant” child may throw a fit saying that they will not do and that you can’t make them. But later, when you check back you find that the second child actually did what you asked!

I imagine that the situation is as old as Time, or at least Jesus’ Time. It was one that his listeners would have been quite familiar with, and they may have even knowingly nodded to one another.

Jesus’ Long is simple; there are far more pseudo-followers or “fans” of Jesus than there are people who take him seriously. In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge told his ghostly late night visitor Jacob Marley that he always was a good man of business, an anguished Marley cried out, “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

In Advent we would do well to ask ourselves if we are willing to take Jesus seriously no matter what or only when taking him seriously fits into our plans and agendas. Are we like the son who says “Yes, Mom or Dad” but never gets around to doing it, or are we like the child who may protest, but who does it anyway. Only of the two sons is a glimpse of grace.

Lord, give me a willing and courageous heart. Let me listen to Your voice and do what You ask me to do. Amen.

Lord

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for December 5, 201

Daily Reading: Matthew 21: 12-22

Text: The blind and the lame came to him, and he cured them. (v. 14)

Since the mid-1990s I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at this time of year. And each year I see something new in the old tale. Today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel caused me to pause and consider one scene in particular.

It occurred during the visit of the Spectre or Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge watched as his underpaid clerk Bob Catchit came home to a place of the love that old Scrooge longed to have. Cratchit softly told his wife something Tiny Tim said on the way home from Christmas Day worship.

“Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself,” Cratchit whispered, “and he thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” A glimpse of Grace.

Glimpses of grace are seen whenever the lame walk and the blind see. It is witnessed whenever lifeless tradition is swept out of the lives of the oppressed and the forgotten. It is heard whenever we listen to the voice of the quiet who often see this world more clearly than we do. Glimpses of Grace are reflected in the lives of those who take the Child named Jesus seriously.

Lord, let me see Your Presence in the presence of those who the rest of the world do es not see. Amen.

 

 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for Advent 2017, December 4

Reading: Matthew 21: 1-11. Text: When He (Jesus) entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” (v. 11)

People have been trying to answer Jerusalem’s question for ages. Who is this man Jesus? He certainly does not neatly fit into any mold.

During this season of Advent, the days leading up to the celebration of Christmas, we seek to answer the question for ourselves. Some say the Jesus was simply a great teacher. Others say that He was much more. But those who take him most seriously call Him Lord–Lord not only of the world but of Me!

At another time and place, Jesus asked the Twelve who walked with Him who people said that he was. The replied that some said he was a great prophet, while others speculated that he was John the Baptist returned from the dead. Jesus then asked a more penetrating question; Who do you say that I am? This is a question that each one of us must wrestle with in our heart. Peter replied, “You are the Christ/Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” “Blessed are you,” Jesus said to Peter, “for this has not been revealed to you by flesh and blood but from on High.”

No one can answer the question of who Jesus is for us any more than someone can learn how to read for us. In this season of Advent, this season of spiritual preparation, may you be given the glimpse of grace that reveals to you Who Jesus is in your life.

Lord, Open the eyes of my heart and show me things of an eternal nature. As I seek You, show Yourself to me in ways that I can see. Amen.

 

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