Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent & The Timeline of Faith

by Bridgett Clark

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word, “Adventus” meaning, “coming.” Scholars believe that Advent began during the 3rd and 4th centuries. It was a season of preparation for baptism that took place in January, either during the feast of Epiphany or the celebration of Jesus’ baptism. It wasn’t until the 6th century that Advent was connected to the second coming of Christ, and the middle ages when it was linked to Christmas and His first “coming.”

Today, during the season of Advent, we connect the two comings as well as to the people 2,000 years ago. In the First Century, Israel was looking back on God’s deliverance in Egypt, while looking forward to the “coming” of the Messiah. Today, we look back on the birth of the Messiah, while looking forward to the second “coming” of Christ.

When thinking of Advent this year I envisioned us standing in the middle of a timeline where we have the best of both worlds. We can look back on history, while looking forward to Christ’s return. Looking back on history allows us to stop and think about the faith of those on the timeline behind us. God purposely recorded the interaction He had with His people for a reason. It gives us a glimpse into how God interacts with us today. Many times, we are looking back on real people with real worries walking through real situations, not necessarily  spiritual powers, or angels or other phenomenal situations. Two thousand years ago, God’s people had the same tools of faith that we have now. Ancient stories of God’s deliverance and God’s promises for the future.

Looking back on the timeline of faith also gives us security in knowing that if God kept His promise to rebellious, doubtful, and ungrateful people back then, He will do the same for us. We can relate to the people in the desert that said, “This isn’t what we signed up for, we didn’t expect it to be this hard, I’d rather be enslaved in Egypt than here in the desert.” Yet, celebrate the fact that God didn’t leave them in the desert to die, but kept His end of the deal and brought them into the Promised Land. We can understand when the people of the Bible try to dig themselves out of situations in their own power, before turning to God, yet celebrate the fact that even though they had adulterous hearts, God still placed His infant son into their arms. There is deep security in knowing that we have a God who gives us the ability to look back in time and see that even in our ugliest moments he won’t forsake us.

One of the greatest fears we face as humans is the fear of the unknown. Not knowing what the future holds terrifies the strongest of people. Having the ability to look back in time gives us the faith to look forward into a future that isn’t unknown, but certain. The second coming of Christ will intimately involve us,  the very earth we are standing on will be destroyed by fire. A new earth will come down out of heaven and Satan will be bound and thrown into the Abyss. Jesus will return and reign as King, and the believers living at the time will transform into His likeness. Believers who had passed will then rise and receive their resurrected bodies. On this new earth, only those who believe in Christ will live. Therefore, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord. None of us will have to wonder what we will do for a living because we will all be priests of God and will reign with him for a thousand years. Imagine, a thousand years without goodbyes because death will no longer have sting, but will be destroyed. As sure as we are of the birth of Christ, so too are we of His second coming. Infact, the last words Jesus spoke in the Bible are, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Being able to stand in the middle of the timeline of faith is a gift from God. Looking back gives us a foundation for our faith, while looking forward, gives us a retreat for our minds. This is the same sort of retreat we have when a vacation is planned and inching towards us. No matter what we are going through or how rotten our days might be. When we stop and think about that vacation, the troubles don’t hit us as hard. This is the gift God offers us during the season of Advent. We can be thankful that we have an eternal vacation to look forward to when life gets rough, that no matter what we are going through it’s going to be okay because Jesus has come, and will come again soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Insomniac’s Threshold

by Travis Montgomery

I ruminate. It’s how my mind works. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s unhealthy to chew on a problem over and over again during all hours of the night, while desperately praying for sleep. However, as of yet, any other alternative has escaped me.

One stressful night, I laid in bed and felt as though my heart was pumping pure adrenaline. Two hours of unsuccessful sleep seemed like an adequate enough attempt to me, so I decided to take a walk down my country road to pray and calm my mind.

The whole village of Gibsonburg seemed asleep as I stepped out onto my back porch. It was a particularly dark night and I felt the cool night air blow gently across my face and arms. I walked down my gravel driveway and stepped onto the blacktop of my county road and noted how quiet my footsteps were--nearly silent. Making my way down the road, I only took a dozen steps or so when I heard rustling from the trees directly next to me.

I stopped to listen. “It” seemingly stopped as well. After a few moments, I walked directly toward the sound and silently slipped right up to the tree line running down the side of the road. Then I waited. I could barely make out the trees, and the darkness acted like a thick, black blanket, beyond which I could see nothing. If I stretched out my hand, it would have disappeared immediately into the void.

I controlled my breath and stood as dreadfully still as I could. The silence that surrounded me broke with the deep breathing of something far larger than a raccoon. I could hear the rasp of the air traveling down its windpipe. My eyes scanned the darkness directly in front of me. I expected its eyes were doing the same. I felt as though I could reach out and touch it.

Before too long I heard the movement of shrubs. “It” turned into “they” and “they” were ever-so-close. In that moment I felt a mixture of excitement, fear and adventure come over me. My fight or flight response rose up, and I chose to stand still. I wanted to know. I wanted to experience whatever that was… as closely as possible. I imagined what it would be like if a large buck walked right out onto the street right next to me. How majestic would that be? How awe inspiring and wonderful?

I realized that the very thing which drove me to the street that night, was being experienced in that moment. My mind sought to capture every possible option, every variable and every control to manage well this ever-present problem robbing me of rest that night. I had worked it over long enough. It was as if I had come up to a dark threshold that separated me from knowing what was coming--from knowing the outcome of my decisions. At this point, it didn't matter how much longer I ruminated. The darkness would still be there. The only choice I had left was to continue trying to control outcomes, to my own detriment, or to stand in faith and trust.

May we be the kind of people who think things through, attempt to see things from all angles, consider all of the options and make wise judgments to guide each step of our lives. However, when we reach the end our understanding and find ourselves on the brink of darkness, may we also be the kind of people who take steps in faith, through the void, expecting to experience the wonder and surprise of all the Lord has in store.

Pastor Travis