Friday, December 31, 2010

Prepare Ye the Way...

As I (Aaron) read over the "God's Promise" section of last week's liturgical devotional outline, I was struck over and over again by the significance (and imperative) of the following passage from the book of Luke:

"Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3:4-6)

Theologian and author John S. Mogabgab observes, "On the road ahead someone is coming toward us, someone for whom we must prepare by undertaking massive new construction. Valleys of loss and despair are to be filled with new hope. Mountains of self-assigned virtue are to be replaced by humility. Crooked minds are to be straightened through repentance, broken bodies to be healed through compassion, and misshapen ideologies to be graded by truth."

The more time we spend as volunteer missionaries here in Poland, the more I'm convinced that these are perhaps foremost among the reasons God called us here in the first place. Not merely to pursue particular self-fulfilling, self-satisfying short-term goals, but to help further develop the work here in accordance with God's long-term plans and purposes.

In short: we are called -all of us- to be path-makers, hole-fillers, mountain-movers, and hope-finders. We are called to prepare the way!

Christmas Sunday: God Clothed in Human Flesh

AFFIRMATION: "Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

PETITION: "Make me worthy, Lord, to serve you and all the world's people who live and die in loneliness, hunger, poverty, and sickness. Give them through my hands this day their daily bread, and by my love, give them peace and joy."

GOD'S PROMISE: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight., and the rough shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3:4-6)

MY RESPONSE: "They set out; and there, ahead of them, the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:9-11)


Monday, December 27, 2010

The True Meaning of...Advent

The following is an excerpt from the collected writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, selected from Week 4 of "A Guide to Prayer for all Who Seek God." Aaron also read it in one of our house church's recent weekly services:

"Advent creates new men and women. Look up, you whose eyes are fixed on this earth, you who are captivated by the events and changes on the surface of this earth. Look up, you who turned away from heaven to this ground because you had become disillusioned. Look up, you whose eyes are laden with tears, you who mourn the loss of all that the earth has snatched away. Look up, you who cannot lift up your eyes because you are so laden with guilt. 'Look up, your redemption is drawing near.'"

"Lift up your heads, you army of the afflicted, the humbled, the discouraged, you defeated army with bowed heads. The battle is not lost, the victory is yours - take courage, be strong! There is no room here for shaking your heads and doubting, because Christ is coming."

Amen!!! :)

Advent, Week 4: I Am Yours

AFFIRMATION: You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. (Psalm 118:28)

PETITION: Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. (Psalm 143:10)

GOD'S PROMISE: For [God] has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:5, 8)

MY RESPONSE: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28)


Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Week 3: "God's Revolutionary Purpose"

AFFIRMATION: "I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me." (Psalms 57:2-3)

PETITION: "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge...until the destroying storms pass by." (Psalms 57:1)

GOD'S PROMISE: "I will never leave you or forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

MY RESPONSE: "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast...For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the clouds." (Psalms 57:7-10)


Prayer Request

Please be praying for Aaron this week...he's had a nasty cough/chest cold/sinus infection for about 3 weeks, and he just can't seem to get rid of it. Plus, the busy pre-Christmas season really isn't the best time for him to be missing work in the shop! :(

We appreciate your prayers!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent: Week 2

AFFIRMATION: "My God, in you only do I find the answer to the questions that perplex and confuse me. Yet I know that in your good time the answer will be made to me."

PETITION: "Give me grace, Dear God, to live with my questions until you are pleased to make my way clear."

GOD'S PROMISE: "If you listen to my word I will answer you. I will not leave you in the darkness of doubt. Always I am seeking to converse with you, but not always do you listen."

MY RESPONSE: Speak your word to me, my Lord, your servant is listening. I yearn to hear your voice and to be transformed by you."


*All selections taken from "A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God," edited by Norman Shawchuck and Reuben P. Job

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jeremiah 29:11...and 13-14!!

Last Saturday night our friend Katie (aka Reverend Kay-Kay) preached a really good sermon about (among other things) the frailty and uncertainties of life. Her central text was Jeremiah 29:11-14, which starts with a verse we all (well, at least everyone who grew up in my house) have heard many times before:

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

Great verse, inspiring stuff. Always good to feel like God is in not just in our corner, but in control...that his ways and plans supersede ours at times in our lives when our plans get crumpled and faded. But what really caught my (Aaron's) attention were the verses that came afterwards:

"Then you will CALL on me and COME and PRAY to me, and I WILL listen to you. You will SEEK me and FIND me when you seek me with ALL your heart. I WILL be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will BRING you BACK from captivity. I will GATHER you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14, NIV)

Three things really inspired/convicted/reassured me about this passage: 1.) God's direction in our lives so often depends on the simple acts of seeking his face through prayer and supplication. 2.) He does hear our prayers, and he always listens to and answers them (even if it's in his time, not ours). 3.) Not only can God be found by us, but he promises to redeem us despite the challenging circumstances in our lives. He longs to gather us back to himself.

Good news in all seasons...especially in the midst of a particularly busy Advent season. God can be found, he can be trusted, and he is mighty to save!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

As Always, These Are Real Conversations...

BRIT: What is this place?

ME: It's a lot of things.

BRIT: But how would you explain it?

ME:'s owned by NCM Polska, which is a ministry of the Church of the Nazarene. There's a coffeehouse, an English Club, there's GÅ‚osik (women's fellowship), Barista Life (vocational fellowship), there's (almost) a Polish Bible study, there are concerts and movie nights, and a church that meets here on Saturday.

BRIT: Yeah.

ME: It's not any of those things by itself; it's all of those things put together.

BRIT: Kinda like the Christian walk itself; you read, pray, work, serve, and encourage, but faith and effectiveness are the sum of those things, not any one thing by itself.

ME: Exactly.