Advent Devotion, December 14

The Means of Grace: Radical Generosity
By the Rev’d Keith Huffman 

Generosity in terms of our talent, time, and treasure is not something that comes to most of us very naturally or comfortably. Giving may be even harder for us if our generosity in times past has been spurned or left us feeling like someone took advantage of us. There is also a significant fear factor in giving that goes something like this: “If I give, then I am afraid I will not have enough for myself, my family, and other life obligations.”
This past year, Andy Stanely’s book, “Fields of Gold” truly challenged me concerning generosity. The basic idea in the book is this: Those who sow generously in the Kingdom of God can expect to reap bountifully in order to sow generously once again. Now if you are thinking, “Ah ha! So if I sow generously I get to reap generously, and I can go on a wild shopping spree to buy all the excesses I want . .  . yeah the book is not about that at all! It simply advocates that Christians sow generously out of a deep and sincere desire to share in the generous service of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom purposes. And if we do so, we can expect to see a bountiful harvest.
I finished the book and had a conversation with myself. “Well, I don’t have a lot of money (seed) to be generous with right now—that’s just the facts, and Lord, I want to give (sow) generously to Kingdom purposes.” It was not long after that thought, that I remembered a sermon series from Church of the Apostles, Raleigh concerning giving where giving was not limited to just finances. Instead we learned that our resources to us by God are: time, talent, and treasure (finances.)
“Hmmm. I do have some time on my hands these days and God has given me a few talents in life  . . . . Good Jesus, how I can be generous with these?!”
“Keith, give all of yourself away!”
“But Lord, you know I am not good at that.”
“Have you tried?”
“Yes. Well no. But well, not exactly, but Lord there are some things . . . you know that have happened to me in doing that in times past and . . .”
“Keith, why are you holding back?”
“Because . . . Lord, I am afraid. I am inadequate in every way and, . . . .”
“Is my grace not sufficient for you? Am I not sufficient for you? Did I not make you? Create you? Shape you? Form you? Place you where you are in life right now and placed people around you?”
“Yes.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I don’t know how to give myself away Jesus. How do we do that?”
“Look at me on the cross—that’s how you do it.”
The Lord Jesus gave himself away on the cross as the ultimate act of radical generosity and he calls us to do the same:
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him  deny himself and  take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life  will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matt. 16:24-26 (ESV)
Every Christian is a son or daughter of the most High King—King Jesus. And He has made each of us to be a unique person, uniquely equipped, and uniquely gifted by God to sow generously in His Kingdom. What is it that God has uniquely given you in terms of time, talent, and treasure? What is God asking you to be radically generous with right now? Maybe your time? Your gifts? Talents? And abilities? Or maybe your spouse, kids, or family, would just like the gift of YOU this year—friend don’t hold back—God does not hold back from you.
God The Father withheld nothing. He radically gave His all to us when he gave us His only begotten Son Jesus Christ whose life, death, burial, and resurrection overturned the curse of death and started putting the world back to right by first saving those who call on his name to be saved —friend this is an amazing act of radical generosity. May we, as we look to His Coming this Advent see that He withheld nothing from us, but was, and continues to be a radically generous God; and He desires us to be radically generous with ALL that we are too.

Generosity in terms of our talent, time, and treasure is not something that comes to most of us very naturally or comfortably. Giving may be even harder for us if our generosity in times past has been spurned or left us feeling like someone took advantage of us. There is also a significant fear factor in giving that goes something like this: “If I give, then I am afraid I will not have enough for myself, my family, and other life obligations.”

This past year, Andy Stanely’s book, “Fields of Gold” truly challenged me concerning generosity. The basic idea in the book is this: Those who sow generously in the Kingdom of God can expect to reap bountifully in order to sow generously once again. Now if you are thinking, “Ah ha! So if I sow generously I get to reap generously, and I can go on a wild shopping spree to buy all the excesses I want . .  . yeah the book is not about that at all! It simply advocates that Christians sow generously out of a deep and sincere desire to share in the generous service of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom purposes. And if we do so, we can expect to see a bountiful harvest.

I finished the book and had a conversation with myself. “Well, I don’t have a lot of money (seed) to be generous with right now—that’s just the facts, and Lord, I want to give (sow) generously to Kingdom purposes.” It was not long after that thought, that I remembered a sermon series from Church of the Apostles, Raleigh concerning giving where giving was not limited to just finances. Instead we learned that our resources to us by God are: time, talent, and treasure (finances.)

“Hmmm. I do have some time on my hands these days and God has given me a few talents in life  . . . . Good Jesus, how I can be generous with these?!”

“Keith, give all of yourself away!”

“But Lord, you know I am not good at that.”

“Have you tried?”

“Yes. Well no. But well, not exactly, but Lord there are some things . . . you know that have happened to me in doing that in times past and . . .”

“Keith, why are you holding back?”

“Because . . . Lord, I am afraid. I am inadequate in every way and, . . . .”

“Is my grace not sufficient for you? Am I not sufficient for you? Did I not make you? Create you? Shape you? Form you? Place you where you are in life right now and placed people around you?”

“Yes.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“I don’t know how to give myself away Jesus. How do we do that?”

“Look at me on the cross—that’s how you do it.”

The Lord Jesus gave himself away on the cross as the ultimate act of radical generosity and he calls us to do the same:
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him  deny himself and  take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life  will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matt. 16:24-26 (ESV)

Every Christian is a son or daughter of the most High King—King Jesus. And He has made each of us to be a unique person, uniquely equipped, and uniquely gifted by God to sow generously in His Kingdom. What is it that God has uniquely given you in terms of time, talent, and treasure? What is God asking you to be radically generous with right now? Maybe your time? Your gifts? Talents? And abilities? Or maybe your spouse, kids, or family, would just like the gift of YOU this year—friend don’t hold back—God does not hold back from you.

God The Father withheld nothing. He radically gave His all to us when he gave us His only begotten Son Jesus Christ whose life, death, burial, and resurrection overturned the curse of death and started putting the world back to right by first saving those who call on his name to be saved —friend this is an amazing act of radical generosity. May we, as we look to His Coming this Advent see that He withheld nothing from us, but was, and continues to be a radically generous God; and He desires us to be radically generous with ALL that we are too.

Advent Devotion, December 19

Savoring the Story
The Rev’d Stephen Linkous 

Read Mark 1:1-8

I don’t know about you, but Advent seems to be one of the most busy times of my year.  So many of us are pulled in a thousand directions trying to do all the ‘normal’ stuff while putting out Christmas decorations, making food (lots and lots of food), buying presents, visiting family, and the list goes on.  We’re just too busy to slow down.  But it’s kind of odd, huh?  Our lives move at such a pace that we can scarcely remember what is really important.  We get so caught up in preparing for the festivities of the Christmas season that we have a tendency to lose sight of who it is that we are celebrating!  In the chaos of all this busyness the wonderful reality that we are celebrating – the incarnation of our Lord, the Savior of the world – easily takes a backseat to all of the stuff we get busy doing.  If our lives read like a book, it would have way too much filler material and not enough real plot.  That doesn’t sound like any book that I would want to read.

However, the story of Jesus is refreshingly different.  It moves with the feel of an epic drama.  His story is so incredibly wonderful it is near impossible to keep it fully in view.  Here in Mark 1, we learn that the beginning of the epic drama that is the life of Jesus doesn’t begin with his birth.  John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, tells us that the story of Jesus goes back even as far as Isaiah’s time, and representatively in Isaiah to the whole of the Old Testament.  What John the Baptist tells us about that story here in the first chapter of Mark, as the whole of the Old Testament proclaims, is that the Messiah, the promised deliverer, will give us the breath of life itself.  Jesus’ legacy throughout all ages will be the gift of life, which is nothing less than the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This gift is far greater than any other we could ever hope to give or receive this Christmas.  The message of the Incarnation is a story too glorious to be too busy to miss.

Perhaps we have heard, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” too much, so much in fact that we simply nod our heads in affirmation while continuing on in our busy lives.  May God grant us the grace to slow down long enough to savor the Savior’s story this Advent season, so that in all our preparations for the coming celebration the true Joy of Christmas is not missed.   May we truly prepare the way of the Lord this Advent, in our homes, in our communities, and in our hearts.

Advent Devotion, December 20

Waiting…
The Rev’d Keith Huffman

“DUDE!!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!!?????” I said out loud at a lady who refused to move at the four-way stop. She had the right-of-way, but would not go. (Her car must have suffered paralysis or something.) About the time I eased off the clutch, she started to go. I stopped. She stopped. I motioned her on. She looked at me. I started to go. She started to go. Thinking she was going to hit me, I floored it leaving the intersection with a long screeeetch of tires in good ‘ol southern boy style. (“Good Lord, that’s no way for a priest to act…..well she must only get out one time of year or something….why am I in such a hurry anyway???”) Lord help me!
Waiting.
I am not by nature a very patient person. (I am sure my wife will agree.) And it seems this time of year that everything takes longer than it should. It takes more time to get things done because of all the gatherings and to-do lists. It takes more time to get through the checkout line at any store. Traffic is slower and more congested everywhere you go. And if you are anywhere near Tanglewood Park on NC-HWY 158 after dark on the 3rd week of Advent and need to get somewhere fast and don’t have a helicopter . . . well you’re going to have to just get over it and wait.
Advent is about waiting. The people of God had to wait. “The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) was written around 500 BC. The people of God had to wait a very looonnngggg time (400 plus years) before the Apostle Matthew could preach and write, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us). Three extra minutes of waiting in the checkout line is nothing in comparison to the 400 years between Isaiah’s prophecy and the prophecy’s fulfillment in the Birth of Jesus Christ. Waiting on the Lord is a big part of Advent.
What are you waiting on the Lord to do in your life this Advent?
Waiting on the Lord is not always easy and it takes great faith. A person who had this kind of faith was Simeon. He is described in Luke as a righteous and devout man filled with the Holy Spirit and waiting for the consolation of Israel. When he saw Jesus Christ he took him up in his arms, blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your  salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32.
What are you waiting on the Lord for this Advent?
For those who wait on the Lord, Isaiah 40:31 offers amazing an amazing promise: “But they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on with the wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
To be honest I grow weary of waiting at times. But I have found that when I feel the agitation creeping in because something is not happening fast enough to suit me, or impatience flaring up inside, or when my “get-this-done” spirit is putting me in a sour mood, I must ask myself, “Keith are you waiting on the Lord in this?” Almost 100% of the time I find myself perturbed at having to wait on something, I have to answer, “No. Lord, I have not been waiting on You in this.”
Isaiah promises it is best to wait on the Lord and His timing.
So again, what are you waiting on this Advent? Are you expecting things to happen on your schedule and timetable, OR are you waiting on the Lord? . . . . . . . .

“DUDE!!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!!?????” I said out loud at a lady who refused to move at the four-way stop. She had the right-of-way, but would not go. (Her car must have suffered paralysis or something.) About the time I eased off the clutch, she started to go. I stopped. She stopped. I motioned her on. She looked at me. I started to go. She started to go. Thinking she was going to hit me, I floored it leaving the intersection with a long screeeetch of tires in good ‘ol southern boy style. (“Good Lord, that’s no way for a priest to act…..well she must only get out one time of year or something….why am I in such a hurry anyway???”) Lord help me!

Waiting.

I am not by nature a very patient person. (I am sure my wife will agree.) And it seems this time of year that everything takes longer than it should. It takes more time to get things done because of all the gatherings and to-do lists. It takes more time to get through the checkout line at any store. Traffic is slower and more congested everywhere you go. And if you are anywhere near Tanglewood Park on NC-HWY 158 after dark on the 3rd week of Advent and need to get somewhere fast and don’t have a helicopter . . . well you’re going to have to just get over it and wait.
Advent is about waiting. The people of God had to wait. “The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) was written around 500 BC. The people of God had to wait a very looonnngggg time (400 plus years) before the Apostle Matthew could preach and write, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us). Three extra minutes of waiting in the checkout line is nothing in comparison to the 400 years between Isaiah’s prophecy and the prophecy’s fulfillment in the Birth of Jesus Christ. Waiting on the Lord is a big part of Advent.

What are you waiting on the Lord to do in your life this Advent?

Waiting on the Lord is not always easy and it takes great faith. A person who had this kind of faith was Simeon. He is described in Luke as a righteous and devout man filled with the Holy Spirit and waiting for the consolation of Israel. When he saw Jesus Christ he took him up in his arms, blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,according to your word;for my eyes have seen your  salvationthat you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,a light for revelation to the Gentiles,and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32.

What are you waiting on the Lord for this Advent?

For those who wait on the Lord, Isaiah 40:31 offers amazing an amazing promise: “But they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on with the wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

To be honest I grow weary of waiting at times. But I have found that when I feel the agitation creeping in because something is not happening fast enough to suit me, or impatience flaring up inside, or when my “get-this-done” spirit is putting me in a sour mood, I must ask myself, “Keith are you waiting on the Lord in this?” Almost 100% of the time I find myself perturbed at having to wait on something, I have to answer, “No. Lord, I have not been waiting on You in this.”

Isaiah promises it is best to wait on the Lord and His timing.

So again, what are you waiting on this Advent? Are you expecting things to happen on your schedule and timetable, OR are you waiting on the Lord? . . . . . . . .