Can We Slow Down During this Season?

 

praying hands with candle

“Prepare the way for the Lord.” Isaiah 40: 3, Mark 1:3

Christmas stirs emotions and memories in people—I wish they were all good, but I know that for many their memories and their feelings are hard. For most of us it is a busy season, both happy and difficult

A missionary friend of mine celebrates advent in a different way than most of us. She was connected to an Anglican convent in England for several years, and writes that their advent season begins “in sharp contrast to the Christmas carols blaring in lavishly decorated malls and swarming shoppers who buzz about in an altered state. Advent began today with a deliberate slowing down and silence…Advent is about stripping down to the essentials in preparation for Christ’s coming, taking away everything that distracts.”

Their decorations and celebrations don’t begin until Christmas Eve.  “Advent is a time for marveling at inner mysteries, a time for watching in awed silence, and a time for getting in touch with our deepest longings for the Lord. Silencing the externals and going deeper into the stillness allows you to taste the riches of the incarnation.  And what appears to be deprivation creates an expectation and space in one’s soul to contain more Christmas joy when the 24th of December arrives.”1

I like that. While we can’t all physically find a place apart from our busy lives, I pray that we find time in our hearts and minds to anticipate with excitement and expectation what God will do in our lives in during this season. And to strip down mentally to the essentials. To find comfort and peace in the knowledge that God loves us.

If you are worried about not having enough money or time or energy to “do Christmas right,” then I pray you will realize that His riches are abundant in love, joy, and peace, and His grace is always sufficient. And His love, flowing out of you, will provide so many blessings to others, that no matter what your means, you will “do Christmas right.”

May your deepest longings for the Lord be met this advent season.

 

  1. Kathy Rogers, former Maranatha missionary to England.
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The One Thing Needed This Season

 

jesus-feet

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed…”—Luke 10:41-42

It’s a busy time. We hustle from store to store, event to event, juggling holiday expectations and hopes of joy. A familiar Bible story (not the traditional Christmas one) holds a deep lesson for this season:

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die. As He traveled about the country, He stopped in Bethany to visit two sisters, Mary and Martha. Before the journey’s end, He would stop many more times to teach and minister, but here, with these good friends, He stopped for rest and refreshment. The inner battle that threatened to consume Him intensified daily as He prepared to go to the cross.

Martha, eager and excited, celebrated His visit by offering the best her household could afford. She fussed about the kitchen, banging pots and pans, stoking the fires, dishing up food, pouring wine, determined to prepare Jesus the best meal He would ever eat. Wouldn’t most of us do that?

While Martha scurried about, her sister Mary simply sat down at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him talk. Eventually, Martha stopped long enough to cry, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We usually look at this story from the point of view of Mary and Martha’s needs. But Jesus had a need as well: peace and quiet. With the cross before Him and turmoil brewing inside Him, He needed to draw strength from loving friends. He had turned to Bethany to find an oasis. Outside, hundreds, even thousands of people could gather into a crowd with just one miracle from His hands. Martha’s home could be the calm before the coming storm — which is what Mary gave Him, and Martha, despite her good intentions, did not.

“One thing is needed,” Jesus said. Mary tuned into the one thing Jesus needed, and ultimately, what she needed as well.

With all our efforts and all the best of intentions, we can end up doing the right things but doing them our way. We like to do good our way, to be kind our way, to be Christian our way. But if our way doesn’t turn out to be the best way, we get offended and think we’re not appreciated by God and by others.

True communion and fellowship requires that first we listen to others, attempting to hear what is really being communicated—and forget ourselves, as we become lost in another’s needs. Everybody has something to say. Everyone wants to be heard. The problem is, nobody is listening.

Mary listened and perceived that all that Jesus wanted was for her— and her sister— to draw as near to Him as possible. Jesus tried to stop Martha, to slow her down, to interrupt her busyness as He called out to her, “Martha, Martha…only one thing is needed.”

How many of us are missing that “one thing,” that most important thing, this season?

 

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A Day to Remember

praythankrememberveteransday01Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.—John 15:13

Today we stop to thank God for the men and women who have served our country, many giving their own lives for our freedom and safety. In our fast paced world, we need moments to stop and think, and remember what’s important. Milestones in our lives, times when God answered prayers, people who impacted us, people who gave themselves for us. If we don’t take the time to remember, we can easily fall into despair when things are hard, and forget who God is and how much He loves us. We can forget the people He has given us to bless our lives – people we know, as well as strangers who lay down their lives for the good of us all.

Psalm 42 is a classic example of depression, disappointment, and heartache being helped by remembering. First the psalmist says, “O my God, my soul is downcast within me.” Read the whole psalm and you’ll see that this was not just a mild case of the blues, but the story of a man drowning in sorrow, weeping in the night, despairing of life. “O my God, my soul is downcast within me; THEREFORE I WILL REMEMBER YOU…” he says. He stops to remember God’s goodness and mercy. He begins to see light in the darkness. He remembers.

Veteran’s Day is a day to remember those who serve us, those whom God provided to give us freedom. A day to help us thank God for our blessings, and to never forget. A day for us to tell our children about the sacrifices of others, and the goodness of the Lord.

Thank the Lord for the men and women willing to endure war and hardship to keep us free.

 

 

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The Year of Shemitah

shimetah image“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts.”—Deuteronomy 15:1

We are familiar with the concept of every seventh day of the week being set apart as a Sabbath.  The ancient Israelites were commanded to honor the Lord and rest from all regular work and activities on this holy day.

But did you know there is also a Sabbath year?  Every seventh year, God ordered a rest of the land and a release of all debts in the Sabbath year called Shemitah.

The Hebrew translation of Shemitah is “to release.” The principle of Shemitah began over 3,000 years ago when the Lord told Moses, “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year, there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord” (Leviticus 25:3-4). He also ordered the release of all debts (Deuteronomy 15:1).

Rabbis cite examples of ancient faithful farmers who observed Shemitah and were blessed with larger crops the following year—a natural consequence of allowing the land to rest and of obeying the Lord.

The Shemitah years were meant to be a blessing for God’s people. As soon as the early Jews settled in the Holy Land, they began to observe the seven-year cycle. But they fell away from God and ignored the seventh-year Sabbaths for 490 years. Soon the blessings of Shemitah turned to judgment.

In 586 BC, the nation of Israel was destroyed.  The Temple was devastated, the land burned, and the people were taken captive to Babylon, where they lamented and waited for 70 years.

Why 70 years?  To repay the 70 Shemitah years they had failed to observe for 490 years.  The land was given an enforced rest until their return. The principles of Shemitah had determined the timing of judgment.

The next Shemitah year on the Jewish calendar began on the Feast of Trumpets this year, September 24, 2014, and continues until September 2015. Interestingly, this Shemitah is bracketed by blood moons.

As we learn more about God’s plans for His people, we can observe this Shemitah year by turning to the Lord and seeking safety and blessing in His loving care! I pray that this will be such a year for you and your loved ones.

To learn more about the Shemitah year and what it could mean to the future of our nation, I recommend this book:  TheMystery of the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn

shemitah book

 

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The Year of Shemitah

shimetah image“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts.”—Deuteronomy 15:1

We are familiar with the concept of every seventh day of the week being set apart as a Sabbath.  The ancient Israelites were commanded to honor the Lord and rest from all regular work and activities on this holy day.

But did you know there is also a Sabbath year?  Every seventh year God ordered a rest of the land and a release of all debts in the Sabbath year called Shemitah.

The Hebrew translation of Shemitah is “to release.” The principle of Shemitah began over 3,000 years ago when the Lord told Moses, “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year, there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord” (Leviticus 25:3-4). He also ordered the release of all debts (Deuteronomy 15:1).

Rabbis cite examples of ancient faithful farmers who observed Shemitah and were blessed with larger crops the following year—a natural consequence of allowing the land to rest and of obeying the Lord.

The Shemitah years were meant to be a blessing for God’s people. As soon as the early Jews settled in the Holy Land, they began to observe the seven-year cycle. But they fell away from God and ignored the seventh-year Sabbaths for 490 years. Soon the blessings of Shemitah turned to judgment.

In 586 BC, the nation of Israel was destroyed.  The Temple was devastated, the land burned, and the people were taken captive to Babylon, where they lamented and waited for 70 years.

Why 70 years?  To repay the 70 Shemitah years they had failed to observe for 490 years.  The land was given an enforced rest until their return. The principles of Shemitah had determined the timing of judgment.

The next Shemitah year on the Jewish calendar began on the Feast of Trumpets this year, September 24, 2014, and continues until September 2015. Interestingly, this Shemitah is bracketed by blood moons.

As we learn more about God’s plans for His people, we can observe this Shemitah year by turning to the Lord and seeking safety and blessing in His loving care! I pray that this will be such a year for you and your loved ones.

To learn more about the Shemitah year and what it could mean to the future of our nation, I recommend this book:  TheMystery of the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn

shemitah book

 

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