Knowing God Through His Promises

Advent Reflection for Thursday, December 8

Psalm 79:9 “Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name. Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of our name.”

This verse helps me keep things in perspective.  God’s saving grace for us is not about us, but for his glory and honor.  All honor and glory is yours O God forever and ever.  Yes, grace frees us from the captivity of sin and cleanses us from guilt, but it is not for our glory.  It is to glorify and honor God.  We come to God purified, clean and acceptable to sing his praises, honor him and give him the glory.  The psalmist in 79 is in a very desperate situation and is crying out to God to change it.  And yet while the situation can be changed, the psalmist realizes that the help is not the end game here.  The end game is to give God the glory and honor.  So when we pray—we pray for miracles—not for selfish reasons, but to give God glory.  Miracles are only the side benefits.

How might this change your prayer today?

~ by Johanna Durrett

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Knowing God Through His Promises

Advent Reflection for Wednesday, December 7

Psalm 75:2-3  God says, “At the time I have planned, I will bring justice against the wicked, when the earth quakes and its people live in turmoil. I AM the one who keeps its foundations firm.”

Praise God.  He is our rock, our firm foundation.  And we know that he is faithful.  He keeps his promises,  His covenant with us is forever.  So no matter what chaos           surrounds us, we are on firm foundations.  No matter what people around us proclaim, God is still our rock.  We must put this truth deep in our beings.  We can’t try to be our own foundation.  We must stand on the foundation of God.  And we “will always proclaim what God has done; I {we} will sing praises to the God of Jacob.” (v 9).

Take time to sing, pray, or write your praises to God today!

 ~ by Johanna Durrett

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Knowing God Through His Promises

Advent Reflection for Tuesday, December 6

Psalm 74: “How long, O God….”

The psalmist says “and no one can tell us when it will end.”  Written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, man cried for God’s redemption.  Today we find ourselves in the same place sometimes.  We ask God “How long?” and the answer is “no one can tell us when”.  Yet in the same psalm we have praises for the Almighty in verse 12, “ You, O God, are my king from ages past, bringing salvation to the earth.”  In the same moment of anguish, of suffering, of feeling weary, God is present bringing salvation to the earth.  And while Jesus had not yet been physically born, salvation was present because God doesn’t operate in time as we think of it.  To him it is always now.  Salvation was present “then” and now.  His covenant with mankind knows no boundaries.  His loving kindness and mercy are always present for all the earth.

How can you be a part of God’s loving kindness and mercy today?

 ~ by Johanna Durrett

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Knowing God Through His Promises

an Advent Devotional for Monday, December 5

Psalm 63:3 and 7-8: “Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you. ““Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings, I cling to you, your strong right hand holds me securely.”

God’s unfailing love…. it is always present.  As we move through this Advent season, looking towards Christmas Day, we focus our hearts, minds and souls on God becoming man in the person of Jesus. Yet while this event is marked in history at a moment in time, God has been there….here all the time.  His unfailing love is always present.  It is here with us today.  We can sense his presence in the shadow of his wings and feel his strong right hand holding us…securely, steadying our feet on the path.

Take some time today to plant your feet on the ground, breathe deeply, and sense the strong Presence of God in and around you.

 ~ by Johanna Durrett

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Knowing God Through His Promises

an Advent Reflection for Sunday, December 4

Malachi is the last prophet through whom God speaks to the people of Israel before the time of John the Baptist and Jesus.  He serves 100 years after the rebuilding of Jerusalem post Babylonian exile around 430 B.C.  The Israelites had returned from 50 years in exile in 538 and rebuilt the Temple starting in around 536.  In the 100 years since the return the people had become complacent about their relationship with God.  The Temple had been important enough to call the people to return and rebuild the city, but according the word of God through the prophet Malachi, the priests have shown contempt for God by offering blemished, blind and diseased animals for sacrifice; by failing to bring the whole tithe; and by turning from the ways of God to the ways of men and the law.  While God has kept up God’s part of the covenant, the people of God have allowed greed, wealth, and self-indulgence places ahead of God in their lives.  Instead of offering God their first fruits, their best energy, and the undivided attention, the people of God are distracted and only marginally attentive everywhere but in the Temple in front of others.  This is the context in which Malachi is called to preach the word of God.  His job is to obediently speak the word God is sending in ways that capture the attention of the less than faithful people of Judah.  A big job indeed, but one Malachi accepts as he speaks of the weak faith and diluted resolve of the people of God.

In the third chapter of Malachi’s prophecy, he speaks of the coming of a messenger who will prepare the way before God makes a sudden arrival in the Temple of Jerusalem.  The Messiah will suddenly arrive, but in order to prepare the hearts and minds of those to whom the Messiah is coming, God is providing a messenger, a sentry, someone who will get the attention of the audience.

In the early 1990’s Roschenne and I were listening to a new kind of country music.  Country was leaning away from the twangy, “blue-grassy” sounds I had associated with country music toward the folk and classic rock and roll sounds of the 60’s and 70’s pop music.  Together with some of our friends from college, we were caught up in the sounds of Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Brooks and Dunn and the like.  One year, I think for my birthday, Roschenne got us tickets to see Vince Gill here in Battle Creek at the Kellogg Arena.  I still remember the concert well.  Vince Gill is still a talent I appreciate.  But that night we were introduced to an artist that literally stole the show for us.  Pam Tillis, took the stage that night with such energy, such command and such excitement that when Vince Gill came on it was almost a letdown.  Pam had been raised in the business, the daughter of Mel Tillis.  She could flat play that electric blue acoustic guitar she was wearing and she lit up the crowd with songs like Maybe It was Memphis, Shake the Sugar Tree, and Mi Vida Loca.  It was a GREAT concert, maybe some of you were there?

The point of this is that Pam Tillis had a job to do.  The job of an opening act is to get the audience’s attention, to bring the energy of the room up so that when the headliner takes the stage the folks are already tuned in.  As Ms. Tillis gave way to Vince Gill the audience was not only ready to receive that which Vince had to offer, they were providing energy in the room off which the headliner could feed.  Pam Tillis may have even done her job a little too well as we left talking more about her than we did about Vince.

In some ways, this is the same kind of work Malachi’s messenger would do.  John the Baptist is this messenger.  Born just a few months prior to Jesus and Jesus’ first cousin, John is an important part of the story Malachi begins to tell for God.  John’s job is to get the attention of the people, to prophecy about the coming Messiah.  He was baptizing people in the Jordan for the forgiveness of sins and the for repentance.  Yet John understood his place in God’s story.  He knew Jesus was the Christ and that his job was to prepare the way in the desert, to make straight the highway for God.  When Jesus arrives on the scene of his own baptism there is already a crowd formed; a crowd of people who knew that something about their lives weren’t quite right; a crowd ready for change.

Malachi tells of the messenger who will come before the Messiah and the stories of Elizabeth and Zechariah, and John the Baptist in Luke’s Gospel tell the stories that fulfill this part of the messianic prophecy.

With the love, hope, peace and joy of the season,

Pastor Chad Parmalee

 

 

 

 

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‘The Days are Coming’

Thoughts on the book of Jeremiah

An Advent Reflection for Saturday, December 3

 Jeremiah 32:40: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them.  I will never stop doing good for them.  I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me.”

Folks, we are them.  Everlasting….ever….lasting.  Endless.  Forever.  A covenant with God.  A covenant from God.   And God will never stop doing good for us.  Never stop.  This is pretty strong language, folks.  But to me this is the character of God.  This is the God I worship.  This is the God I love.  This is the God I trust.  I am his child and he is my father.  He will lead me all the days of my life towards his kingdom here on this earth and to my heavenly home.  And my heart worships the LORD now and forever.

Take time today to renew your covenant with God.

 ~ by Johanna Durrett

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The Days are Coming

Thoughts on the book of Jeremiah

An Advent Reflection for Friday, December 2

Jeremiah 31:33: “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD.  “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

What an awesome promise! God has written his instructions, his guidelines, on our hearts.  The answers are there – inside each one of us.  Our hearts tell us what to do – what to say – how to act or react.  We need to trust our hearts and let God’s love flow through us to the world around us. Think from your heart, act from your heart, speak from your heart.

If this is not familiar territory for you, practice letting your heart lead today.

~ by Johanna Durrett

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