Advent 2017 | Day 10 | Love

Advent Second Sunday:  Love

Today marks the second Sunday of Advent. And Today’s candle represents “love”.

One of the beauties of following the Church calendar is that it reminds us that we are connected to the church historic. In other words the Christian church did not begin when you joined it and it will be here long after our time has past.  And when you go back and study the rich magisterial history of the church in western civilization you will see that the Christians who came before us greeted Advent as we do today.  Hear the words of St. Paul to the Church in Rome: Owe no man anything…but love one another.

That simple verse of Scripture: Owe no man anything...but love one another is such a reminder especially during this season.  You see Advent celebrates a freedom, a dissolution (if you will), the dissolving of all obligations in the face of the great obligation the love which God commands for Himself and for our fellow human beings; Both the vertical love of God and our horizontal love to one another are represented to us in the face of Jesus Christ--the God-Man.  The horizontal direction of love to our fellow man resounds all kinds of responsibility for our fellow man.  But that is the essence of what it means to love one another.  We give ourselves for one another.  We demonstrate this principle of my life for yours with our neighbors.  But why?  Because ultimately it is God who has demonstrated this principle of perfect love with us through the sending of his own son Jesus Christ.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8 Love never fails.  ~ I Cor. 13:4-8

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.  8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. ~ Romans 13:7-10

Advent 2017 | Day 9 | Danielle Tucker

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church member, Danielle Tucker. 

Over the past year, and leading straight up into the Advent season, has been a time of learning what it means to truly trust in the Lord for our little family - trusting in the Lord to be faithful, to keep His promises, to provide, to take care of us. The list can go on and on depending on our situation or season of life. How difficult it must have been for the Jewish people to trust in the Lord during their centuries of waiting or even once their Savior had come, but just not quite in the way they expected.

I believe one of the most important lessons we can learn is to fully trust in Him and His timing. Our life circumstances rarely turn out as we expect them to, when we expect them to and yet, we can usually look back and see how our Father weaved everything together perfectly and better than we could have imagined. That’s the delight of trusting in the Lord! When you believe He will take your imperfect life and use it for His perfect plan. That kind of trust is so incredibly difficult to learn but something that takes you to a place of joy and life-giving peace once you embrace it.

What are you waiting on that you need to give to the Lord this Advent season? How can you get to a place of being able to say, “I trust you, Lord” in each and every moment? During Advent, I urge you to meditate on the words of Mary in the first chapter of Luke:

-        “I am the Lord’s servant….may your word to me be fulfilled.” (verse 38)
-        “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (verse 46)
-        “The Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” (verse 49)

I want to trust in the Lord the way Mary did. I want to glorify His name no matter what life brings. Do you?

Advent 2017 | Day 8 | Pastor Dave Lescalleet

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from our Lead Pastor, Dave Lescalleet

On this Day:  Snow!

On this day, December 8, 2017, those of us living in South Texas, were given an early Christmas present.  It snowed!  In light of the winter wonderland that we experienced today (it lasted nearly 15 hours!), I thought it only appropriate to offer eight scriptures that reference snow in the Bible.  I offer this for today’s On-Line Advent Calendar. 

Job 37:6
God says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

Psalm 51:6-7
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 147:16
God spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.

Proverbs 25:13
Like the cold of snow in time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.

Proverbs 31:20-21
She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.  She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet.

Isaiah 1:18
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 55:10
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater

Mark 9:2-3
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

 

Advent 2017 | Day 7 | Rev. Jack Carter

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from our Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Jack L. Carter.

Jesus is King

The Advent of the King changes everything. The consistent record of the doctrine of the church is that the initial disciples saw in Jesus a King and His rule as absolute.  Even the revilers of the message of the Apostle Paul in Thessalonica understood this.  In Acts 17:6-7 we read, “And when they (a mob of wicked men) could not find them (the leaders of the church in Thessalonica), they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is ‘another king, Jesus.”  And they were absolutely correct in their appraisal.

            In the fullness of time, born of a woman, Jesus comes as the Son of David who will and did fulfill God’s promise to David that a descendent would occupy the thrown forever.  The new era, therefore, has come and the old era is passing away.  We proclaim and testify that the kingdom of God has come, is coming, and shall yet come.  We preach both “Christ-crucified” and “Repent for the Kingdom of God is here.” 

            “Advent is the act of divine authorization of Jesus as the Son of God; the Kingdom arrives in Jesus,” says James Smith.  The Church’s basic confession is that “Jesus Messiah-King is Lord of all.” We declare in this that all providential institutions, all political systems, all rulers and authorities, are subject to the reign of God in Christ.  John heard a cry from heaven at the sounding of the seventh trumpet.  “Sovereignty over the world has passed to our Lord and His Christ; the Kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”

 

Advent 2017 | Day 6 | Amy Allen

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church Member,  Amy Allen.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the word come.  When we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” what do we mean?  What are we asking for?  Answers?  Justice?  Or maybe just relief?

The Old Testament is full of people exclaiming “How long?”  They were waiting for Jesus, the anticipated Messiah, and sometimes that waiting got a little…well…long.  Even wearisome, perhaps.

Maybe you feel that way today.  Tired and weary from the waiting, and you’re asking, “How long?”  Maybe your waiting has led to discouragement or hopelessness like David in the Psalms: 

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.  My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long? Psalm 6:2-3

Let me sit down beside you and say “Me too, friend.  I understand.  I’ve been there.  But hold on!  Your Savior is here!”

While Advent is indeed about waiting for Jesus to come, the great thing about where we sit in history is that Jesus HAS COME.  Why is that important?  Because Jesus is THE ANSWER!  Always.  But often times, we forget that and  waiting can make our gaze turn blurry.   We  need to refocus.  But, how? 

We come

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

However, we usually make this part overly complicated.  So let’s think about how Christ came.  Interestingly, He came as a baby!  Vulnerable.  Nothing in his hands.  And that’s exactly how we should come— with nothing to offer, and everything to receive.  

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Let me assure you from experience, the time you spend with Him is not just fluff.  It is not an item on your to-do list that you may check off for extra credit.  It is vital, my friend.  He asks you to come, but you have to choose.  And when you come—when you say yes to that invitation—you receive.  Receive everything you ask for?  Not likely.  But you receive Him.  And that’s what you need.  His love.  His protection.  His leading.  His peace.  His joy.  His counsel.  His wisdom.  His freedom.

Your job is simply to come, and He will change everything.   

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

 

 

 

 

Advent 2017 | Day 5 | Stacy Kempf

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church Attender,  Stacy Kempf.

Seasons of Waiting

Four hundred years…that is the amount of time that historians believe separated the prophetic words of the Old Testament and the writings of the New Testament. Four centuries of perceived “silence”, approximately 146,000 days or 3,504,000 hours of waiting to hear from God. As someone who grows frustrated simply waiting for the light to turn green, it’s not much of a stretch for me to imagine what the wait must have been like for the Jewish people during that time, especially considering their track record. I can only envision that they were like many of us today…impatient one moment, hopeful the next, then back to doubting and questioning God’s plans. This season of waiting that they experienced, along with many stories in the Bible, reveal to us that God’s timeline rarely matches up to the one desired by His children. Yet it is always perfect, as it was the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

With so many examples of God’s flawless timing, why are we still terrible at waiting on The Creator of time itself?  Why do we find ourselves trying to hurry Him along as we rush towards the next blessing, the next milestone, the next day off, the next __________ (fill in the blank)? We all can probably shake our heads in agreement at C.S. Lewis’ frequently quoted words of, “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless he sees that it is good for him to wait.” So why then do we struggle with it so much still? It’s distressing to me how I can sometimes push my agenda on God or even leave Him out of it completely, all because I don’t care to wait. Yet the Bible shows us over and over that waiting is simply a part of God’s divine providence, and He uses it to refine us and to draw us closer to Him.

With all that being said, it seems that all the signs point to one reason, as to why we are dreadfully defective at waiting….it all comes down to sin…to the very reason that Jesus came down to earth in the first place. How very fortunate then are you and I that we have a loving and merciful God, who is quick to forgive us, and who loves us enough to keep us waiting for as long as it takes. He is also gracious enough to invite us to have an intimate relationship with him, which enables us to face difficult times of waiting with the peace and contentment that only He can offer.  I think that’s one reason that I enjoy the Advent season so much. It’s a reminder that I am desperately in need of Savior, and it is through Him that I am able to embrace the wait - to wait with joyful expectation for the celebration of Christmas Day and to wait for the glorious Advent yet to come!

Advent 2017 | Day 4 | Karissa Hass

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church Member,  Karissa Hass.

In Whom Is My Expectation?

Expectation holds excitement.  It’s straightforward definition is , “A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future,” and, “A belief that someone will or should achieve something.”  Some of us have high expectations of ourselves and others.  Occasionally we and others fulfill expectations,  but we are always left wanting something else, something more.  What do we seek?  In the end, we desire something that lasts. Perhaps we are looking for something eternal?  Do we want eternal comfort, or emotional security, or sense of purpose, or friendship?  Do we want to be loved and understood perfectly?  Do we desire to love and understand and serve others perfectly?  But how?

For thousands of years, God promised His people salvation. In Psalm 9:18 we are told, “The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.”.  Jeremiah 29 promises “... a future and a hope….” and that God’s people “...will call upon Me and go and pray to Me….And you will seek Me and find Me….”.  What do we expect to find in God’s long promised salvation? Is it personal fulfillment?  Sometimes, I think, we forget the object of our expectation.  Our long awaited expectation is Jesus Christ, the person.  God’s salvation brings us the perfect and eternally fulfilling gift of Himself. God did not forget His promise.  Christ’s first advent brought salvation, full and free just as Simeon testified in Luke 2:30 upon seeing the baby Jesus, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation.”  We believe what Christ accomplished in the first advent and eagerly await the second advent, His reappearing.  

May our testimony be like that of Abraham in Romans 4 that “...being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.  And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  Our righteousness is Christ.  Our expectation is that every emotional, spiritual, relational desire will indeed be met through Christ alone.  1 John 3:2 reminds us,  “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

We live in excited expectation that Jesus will never leave us wanting.

Advent 2017 | Day 3 | Hope

(Note:  The following is a summary of the Advent Reading that we had today at City ChurchIt is offered for you as an Advent meditation on this day of the Advent season). 

From it’s beginning in Church history, the season in the Church Year called “Advent”, which means “coming”, was seen as preparation for Christmas.  In the early years of this observance, Advent was seen as a season of great seriousness, and as such repentance and preparation for the coming of Christ was always front and center.  The Christmas holiday season actually begins December 25th and ends January 6th with the celebration of Epiphany.

The time leading up to December 25th, the time we are now in, is the celebration of Advent, the celebration of remembering Christ’s First Coming (His First Advent).  This is a time that sits along side the anticipation of Christ’s return at his Second Advent.  Both Advents recognize the prayer:  Come, oh Come Emmanuel. 

The people of Ancient Israel hoped for Emmanuel’s coming, the coming of God’s Savior, and that is our same hope today.  The church has the same hope as we look to the second advent of Christ’s return. 

This morning at our Sunday worship service, we lit the first advent candle, which represents hope.  It was just a few months ago when we were devastated by Hurricane Harvey that in a television interview a resident of Port Aransas said, “We could sure use some hope right now.”  He is correct.  But that message of hope isn’t just for those who went through storms like Harvey, much of our current world suffers from a crisis of hope.  Hope is not wishful thinking or holding a positive thought.  Real hope, Gospel drenched hope, comes from a response to God’s promises that are as real today as they ever were.  The ultimate promise being the Lord Jesus Himself. 

In response to the advent of Christ, the church as God’s people, became a gathered and gathering community.  At the first Advent that gathering began in Galilee, the very point of juncture between ancient Israel and the Gentile people.  It was a time of darkness, having no hope in the world, when they saw a great light and the gathering began inviting all people, lepers and centurions, Jews and gentiles, rich and poor and everyone in between. 

It was the old prophet Isaiah in 742BC who first heard God’s call and “saw the Lord high and lifted up” and he was never the same. 

From the Prophet Isaiah chapter 60:  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. 21 Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor. 22 The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.”

Advent 2017 | Day 2 | Kristin Lescalleet

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from Kristin Lescalleet, Director of Community Life at City Church.

 Yesterday David and I went to get a Christmas tree.  While we were wandering through the maze of Spruce trees trying to find the perfect size, shape, and hopefully one that wouldn’t drop its needles, we met a woman.  Like us, she was on a quest for the right tree.  She was around our age, very lovely, very friendly.  In the course of our conversation with her, we learned that she had recently moved here from Minnesota and had also spent time in Maryland, both locations that are very cold in the winter months.  As we were all hunting through the man-made forest of Home Depot, we were actively working up a sweat.  She turned to us and commented, “It’s so warm that it doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

Ain’t it the truth!  I’ve always contended that it takes a special type of faith to live in South Texas during December.    Most of us have in our minds what Christmas is supposed to feel like, and 80-degree weather usually isn’t on the list.

That got me thinking about Advent.  I also thought about the theme that David will be preaching on during December which is “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”  And then I thought about this:

Most of the time in life things don’t quite look and feel like we expect them to.

That’s certainly true about the first Advent. 

~ The long-expected Messiah is born in a stable? 

~ The long-expected Messiah who comes to rescue His people and overthrow their enemies is nailed to a cross?

Now to be fair, the clues about the long-expected Messiah can be found in the Law and the Prophets.  The people who lived during the time of the first Advent shouldn’t have been as surprised as they were.  Jesus, Himself, told them that if they had really understood Moses and the Prophets, then they would have known who He was. 

But even the disciples who were eye-witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, the most glorious fulfillment of God’s ultimate power over death, still struggled with certain expectations, namely who gets to be a part of this new family?  It was almost inconceivable that Gentiles…pagans…would be grafted into the line of Abraham.  The whole idea of the church had to blow their expectations – this beautiful mess of Jews and Gentiles worshipping the Risen Lamb of God together.

So here we are in 2017, living between the first Advent when Jesus came and the second Advent when He will return once and for all.  And I think we still have problems with expectations.

We expect the easy life when Jesus clearly warned us about trials and tribulations.  We expect the right to live the American Dream and have all of our felt-needs met when God says He wants us to live His Dream, the dream of being sons and daughters of the King, of taking dominion of the earth that He has given to us and making disciples of all the nations.

So as I’ve been pondering this, here are some of my expectations for the coming year:

~ I’m expecting trials and tribulations.  I’m also expecting that God will empower me through Christ to overcome them, not be destroyed by them, and give Him glory through them.

~ I’m expecting that I will continue to meet broken people with broken lives.  I’m also expecting that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to save, heal, and restore these same broken people.

~  I’m expecting the nations to rage.  I’m also expecting that Jesus really is the King of the nations and that all other rulers will yet bow down and kiss the Son. (Psalm 2)

~  I’m expecting that God is going to use me in mighty and powerful ways between the Advents even if it looks small to others. 

~  And finally, I’m expecting that none of this may look exactly how I think it is supposed to look, but I’m also expecting that it is actually going to be ultimately better than I could have imagined. 

It may not feel like Christmas in South Texas, but Jesus has come, He sent the Holy Spirit to be among us right now to aid us between the Advents, and Christ will yet come again.   Expect it.

 

Advent 2017 | Day 1 | Rev. Jack L. Carter

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from our Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Jack L. Carter.

                                                        “How Long, O Lord?”

This is the first day of Advent, 2017, and we join in remembering with millions of people around the world who are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  And once more we are faced with this stark reality:  brokenness characterizes our earthly existence, even while we are made whole in Christ.  It was the late G.E. Ladd who, in his magisterial writings on the kingdom of God and of Christ, coined the phrase to describe it as “already and not yet.”  I have loved and appreciated that insight, and it is still relevant as we, for the next few weeks, consider and remember Christ’s first coming, that first Advent.  “Advent” for the saints before His coming required a stance of active waiting, and that stance is yet required of us.

And so the title of this day’s meditation is “How long, O Lord?”  At least 43 times in the Bible we find the question, “how long?”  And that haunting question is expressed by different speakers in various situations.  For example, God Himself asks Israel in the wilderness, “How long will the people despise Me?  And how long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?  How long shall this wicked congregation complain against me?”  Another example is when God asks Pharaoh, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?”  Even Jesus speaks to the nation of Israelites and asks, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you?  How much longer must I put up with you?”  Does even God’s patience run out?  Can even God’s patience become thin?

Little wonder, then, that we hear this expression on the lips of mortals.  From Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Nehemiah, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and many more we hear the very same cry, “How long, O Lord?”  Even the souls of the slaughtered, martyred saints who are under the altar cry out, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before You judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants on the earth?”  And they were simply told to “rest a little while longer.”

But perhaps the most poignant cry from a servant of God is found on the lips of John the Baptist when he was in Herod’s prison.  At some point in that imprisonment, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question:  “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for another?”  This is another “How long?” without using those exact words.  And remember, these words are coming from him who was the “Elijah who is to come.”  John had declared, truly, that Jesus was the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  Jesus, (Johns says) is the one who must “increase” and “lays the axe to the root of the tree.”  But as John lay in the dungeon of Machaeus, terrible questions arose in his mind.  What if, after all, there had been some terrible mistake on his part?  Was it all a reality, or could it have been only a dream, only a reflection of his own imagination?  John was undergoing an hour of darkness and feeling the awful power of that darkness.  “Am I right?  Are you He?”

But I am convinced that in that real conflict, John overcame, as must all the sons of God overcome.  John’s very real despair opened the door of hope.  The helpless doubt, which none could solve save One, John brought to Jesus, and Jesus received it, answered it, and overcame it.  Our ultimate answers will always lie in Christ.  Will we allow our struggles to lead us to Christ, or from Christ?  “To whom shall we go?  You, Jesus, have the words of eternal life.”

The question of John, “Are you He?” meant something like this:  “Are You He that is to establish the kingdom of God in its outward power and fullness NOW, or have we to wait for another?”  And the answer from Jesus is “Yes!” with a provision.  In Him the signs of the kingdom came, but the fullness of that kingdom is not yet.  And then Jesus gave John and us a new “Beatitude.”  “Blessed is he who takes no offense at Me; who is not scandalized by Me.”  Faith in Christ, which means resting in His distinctive work and word, and believing submission to the humbleness of the Gospel, will be more than enough to strengthen us both in head and heart.

Advent 2017 will include for us longing, yearning, patience, faith, and hope, a posture of uplift, tethered to a King who came and is also coming; in other words, “the already and not yet.”