The Little Things

It’s the little things in life that make life enjoyable. It’s the little victories or the little surprises that bring us the most joy. A couple of weekends ago my sister and I finally stained the mantle of my electric fireplace. The mantle was a little stained and faded, and I had purchased the supplies for the project over a year ago, but it just never got done. Since I was cleaning it off in preparation for holiday decorating, she offered to help me stain it. It took less than an hour, but the effect was stunning. Every time I looked up at it that weekend I couldn’t help but smile. It was a small thing that brought great joy.

For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

Zechariah 4:10

The scriptures tell us not to despise the small things, the small starts, because they are the beginning of something greater. Every project has to start somewhere even if it is a baby step. It is one more step than we have ever done before, so it is progress in the right direction. Like a father watching his child take it’s first steps, God Our Father takes joy in even the smallest of victories.

Joy – Shepherd’s Candle

God has always been pleased to work among the least of men, or the least in the eyes of the world. When Christ was born in Bethlehem, God didn’t announce it to the leaders. He announced it to the shepherds at work in the field.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:8-11

Why the shepherds? Maybe it was because God knew they would find joy in the arrival of the babe. They were men who spent their lives in nature and among the animals and had learned to appreciate the simple things in life. They also were representative of the common man, and the Messiah had come to earth to save all who would believe, no matter what their station in life.

Little Victories

God is a God of details. Creation is full of tiny reminders of His Glory, from the stars above to the ground below. He is interested in even the smallest details of our lives. He does not despise the little victories. He celebrates with us. So, this season take a moment to enjoy the small things like a peppermint mocha, finding the right present for someone, hearing your favorite carol on the radio, or a purring cat on a cold winter night. Give thanks for the small things and spread the joy.

A Little Light

Sometimes all it takes is a little light to help us find our bearings. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night disoriented, especially in a strange place? We awaken from a dream into a strange world that used to be our bedroom. Heart pounding, we search the dark for something familiar but all the shadows seem threatening. Gradually our eyes adjust as a tiny bit of light from the computer screen in the next room sheds light on the doorway and you relax as the room becomes familiar again.

Faith – Bethlehem’s Candle

For the nation of Israel, the world had been dark for a while, spiritually speaking. There had not been a word from God as far as prophets go for roughly 400 years. Possibly they had gotten used to the dark, but there were still some who were looking for a light. They had faith that God’s Word would be fulfilled, starting with the little town of Bethlehem.

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Micah 5:2

So, in Bethlehem that night the Messiah was born in fulfillment of this prophecy. Even though the town was small and insignificant to most people, it became the birthplace of the light of the world. However, not many people recognized it. Most were overwhelmed by the details of daily living, like the decree from Caesar for the census forcing everyone to return to their hometowns. It wasn’t hard to get distracted and miss the gift in the manger. After all, what good could come out of Bethlehem?

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:4-5

Jesus came to bring light back to the world, but the world couldn’t see it. They were used to the darkness and the light hurt their eyes, but once a light is turned on it chases away the darkness. When Jesus died and was resurrected, he left little traces of that light in the heart of each believer so that they could be a light in the darkness (Matthew 5:14). In order to shine our light, we have to keep our wicks ready and our lamps filled with oil, but how do we do that?

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

We do it through faith. This sounds simple until you are knee-deep in a struggle surrounded by more what if’s than you can comprehend. It is easy to lose faith and hope in those moments, just like when you wake in the middle of the night and try to make sense of the darkness. First, you have to focus on the light from within to get your bearings. The best way to do that is to follow the example of David.

But I have trusted in your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in your deliverance.

Psalms 13:5 (CSB)

David found his bearings by reflecting and remembering what God had already done. When we feel lost in the struggle, we can follow David’s example. Just the other day I came home fighting the sneezing and sniffling that is common for this time of year and found myself wondering what if it was something else. Then, I went down the rabbit hole of all the issues that could cause and was slipping toward a downward spiral when I finally stopped to pray. I decided to take my temperature, just in case, praying the whole time. It was a normal 97.6 (normal for me anyway), and I felt God using that to reassure me. Worrying about all the potential hazards only sapped my joy and kept me busy spinning in a circle. Like the blue circle on my computer, it kept me from doing what needed to be done. The enemy does his best work by keeping us distracted so that not only can we not see the light, but we no longer are a light. In a world that has grown used to the darkness that is not a luxury we can afford.

That little town of Bethlehem gave birth to a great light and shared it with us. The least we can do is to share it with others. Fill your lamps with oil by taking a moment to reflect on who God is by reading the Word and reflecting on what God has done for you in the past. Then, you can direct the light outward to someone else who is struggling and help them find their bearings. A candle doesn’t lose any light by sharing the flame with another candle; it just increases the amount of light. So, light your lamp or candle and then share the flame so that we can chase away the darkness.

Just remember, in the middle of a bunch of what if’s it is best to focus on the what is. From there we can move forward on solid ground knowing that the light of Bethlehem still shines brightly.

Expectation

As the Advent season begins, the first candle lit symbolizes either hope or expectation and sometimes is called the Prophet’s Candle. To me, hope and expectation are tied together. Generally when we have expectations, we are hoping for good. Biblical hope is the confident expectation of God’s promises. Given the state of the world, we could all use some hope and expectation for good.

Pathway to Hope

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Romans 5:3-5

The pathway to hope is more of a hike, so think of it as an adventure. Romans chapter five tells us that tribulation creates patience as we learn to deal with the troubles of this world. Patience grows with experience because when we follow Christ, we witness His faithfulness to us. The more experience we have, the more we have hope that God will do what He says. As a matter of fact, we expect Him to do what He says.

Expectations of Hope

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

What can we expect from God? Jeremiah tells us that God has plans for us, plans on an eternal scale. The things that happen on earth are just preparations for what is to come in eternity. But, it’s not just expectations for the hereafter; it is also expectations for a life of peace here.  How can we have peace in this world? We can have the peace God gives that is not tied to what is going on around us, but is an expression of His presence in our lives.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Because of His presence and his peace, we can expect to be renewed daily. When you team up with God, He does the heavy lifting. You don’t have to do it alone or in your own strength. You can expect help and never be disappointed.

Results of Hope

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

Psalms 130:5

When we hope in God, we are never disappointed. Hope by definition usually requires a waiting period. The world had to wait a long time in earth years for the coming of the Messiah, but in eternal time it was just a drop in the bucket. Now we patiently hope for Christ’s return. In the meantime, we have the promise of God, and in the season of Advent we are reminded that God fulfilled the words of the prophets regarding the coming of the Messiah.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

So, light the Prophet’s Candle and have hope for a brighter tomorrow because Emmanuel has come.

Advent: Fear Not

Advent Candles

Since the end of the year is approaching, I have begun looking at goals and schedules and trying to figure out what writing projects to work on next. I was also putting all the holiday events on my calendar and deadlines for current projects. The more I looked at it, the more anxious and stressed I felt. So, I walked away and looked at the Advent readings for this week, mostly from Luke chapters 1 and 2. Angels were appearing to people to give a pronouncement from God of good news, yet each time they prefaced it with the words “Fear Not.” Why would they be afraid of good news?

The truth is that the thrill of good news is often immediately followed by fear. A couple finds out they are pregnant after years of trying and they are elated, but then they start thinking about the responsibilities and potential problems associated with parenting. You hear back from a search committee that you got the job, and after a brief moment of celebration, worries that you won’t be able to handle the job rush in to steal your joy. You find out your first published book is a success but immediately begin to worry that you won’t be able to write another one. Why is that?

Luke 22:31 says, “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The enemy wants to destroy us. He will throw everything he has at us to get our focus off of God. Satan’s greatest desire is to make us unusable to God in any way possible, so we have to keep our guard up and recognize his tactics. Fear is a favorite tool of Satan, and he wields it like a weapon. However, I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

The most common way Satan uses fear is to make us doubt our ability to carry out a calling or command of God. For instance, you may feel called to teach a Bible study class but feel you don’t know enough or that people won’t want to listen to you. However, if God calls you, He will equip you.  In Hebrews 13:21, scripture says He will “make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As a matter of fact, God often calls us to assignments that are out of our comfort zones because He wants the world to see Him and not us and to teach us to depend on Him and not any natural talents we may possess.

So, when God gives you an assignment, believe that He will equip you and will bring about what He has said. If He has ordained it, He will bring it to pass in His time and His way. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Wait upon the Lord, and He will work out the details and your schedule. As the angels said, “Fear not…”

Advent: Fear Not

Since the end of the year is approaching, I have begun looking at goals and schedules and trying to figure out what writing projects to work on next. I was also putting all the holiday events on my calendar and deadlines for current projects. The more I looked at it, the more anxious and stressed I felt. So, I walked away and looked at the Advent readings for this week, mostly from Luke chapters 1 and 2. Angels were appearing to people to give a pronouncement from God of good news, yet each time they prefaced it with the words “Fear Not.” Why would they be afraid of good news?

The truth is that the thrill of good news is often immediately followed by fear. A couple finds out they are pregnant after years of trying and they are elated, but then they start thinking about the responsibilities and potential problems associated with parenting. You hear back from a search committee that you got the job, and after a brief moment of celebration, worries that you won’t be able to handle the job rush in to steal your joy. You find out your first published book is a success but immediately begin to worry that you won’t be able to write another one. Why is that?

Luke 22:31 says, “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The enemy wants to destroy us. He will throw everything he has at us to get our focus off of God. Satan’s greatest desire is to make us unusable to God in any way possible, so we have to keep our guard up and recognize his tactics. Fear is a favorite tool of Satan, and he wields it like a weapon. However, I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

The most common way Satan uses fear is to make us doubt our ability to carry out a calling or command of God. For instance, you may feel called to teach a Bible study class but feel you don’t know enough or that people won’t want to listen to you. However, if God calls you, He will equip you.  In Hebrews 13:21, scripture says He will “make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As a matter of fact, God often calls us to assignments that are out of our comfort zones because He wants the world to see Him and not us and to teach us to depend on Him and not any natural talents we may possess.

So, when God gives you an assignment, believe that He will equip you and will bring about what He has said. If He has ordained it, He will bring it to pass in His time and His way. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Wait upon the Lord, and He will work out the details and your schedule. As the angels said, “Fear not…”

Advent: The Discipline of Waiting

Advent Candles

Waiting…it seems to be a theme lately. At the moment, I am waiting on a FedEx delivery that should have been here on Monday and it is now Friday. I have a text saying it is out for delivery, but I got one saying the same thing yesterday, which was redYoung Manacted later saying it was rescheduled. Young Man is also waiting on this particular delivery since it contains his food and his food bowl is currently empty. He doesn’t like waiting any more than I do and has been very vocal about the situation. I can only imagine what it was like for Elizabeth and Zacharias who had been waiting their whole lives for a child, and the children of Israel who had been waiting for The Messiah for centuries. My wait time is substantially shorter, but some things really are worth the wait.

Growing up, my church didn’t participate in advent, so I don’t know much about it. However, this year I wanted to find out the purpose behind the practice, so I did a little research. One article discussed the discipline of waiting and why advent has been pushed aside by many Christians (Read Article). The gist of it is that we don’t like waiting, so we start talking about Christmas the day after Halloween and some people start even before Halloween is over. You have probably heard the expression “killing time,” which is what most people think waiting is: a waste of time. Yet, there is something to be learned in any situation, including waiting.  In a previous blog (Postponed) I talked about the benefits of looking forward to something, and while the wait for The Messiah is long past, the wait for His return is not and there is something to be gained from the waiting process. God often speaks more clearly in the waiting than He does in the answer to our prayers.

Advent is observed during the four weeks prior to Christmas with a candle being lit on each Sunday. The first candle, which is purple, represents hope. It is also called the prophecy candle in remembrance of the prophets, like Isaiah, who foretold of The Messiah’s coming. Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” The Messiah was to be a light in the darkness, a beacon of hope. He still is today. Even now we wait for His return so that He can shed light in a world of darkness and renew all of creation. In the meantime, we can be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) by letting Christ shine through us while we wait for His return.

Even if you don’t have an advent wreath with candles to light, take a moment from the hectic bustle to remember what we are waiting for…The Messiah. Because of Him we have hope, hope for a better future. So, be a candle that shines the light of hope in a dark world this Christmas season and all year long.