Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: December, 2011

Troubled by revelation

Luke 1:28-29 “[Gabriel] went to [Mary] and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”

Maybe Mary was just confused by how the angel addressed her, but I think we’re all “troubled” when God chooses to reveal Himself, especially when we’re reminded that He is “with us.” I, all too often, tend to think of God as someone in the wings of life, someone to talk to in time of trouble, someone to worship during specified times, someone to celebrate but still basically incomprehensible, basically unrevealed. 

But, at Christmas, God pulls back the curtain and says, “Immanuel! The Lord is with you!” The mostly hidden, the incomprehensible, the incommensurate God is revealed–no, more than that–is present in you. How frightening! And yet, how essential to the dialog that is the Christian life.

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Mary’s revolutionary song

As I read the Magnificat this morning, I was struck by its bold and revolutionary nature. In the mouth of a teenage girl, it must have seemed so naive and idealistic. Mary confidently stated that everything was going to be different from here on out, not just for her and her family, but for her nation. Her statement showed the same great confidence in the Messiah’s revolutionary nature that Isaiah had in Isa. 61:1-3–a Messiah who would preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release prisoners from darkness, proclaim the time of God’s favor and His vengeance, and to comfort and provide for the mourning.

The question is–during this Advent season, am I waiting for a God that revolutionary? One that will not only set things right when He comes back to earth, but one that will set things right in my life, in my family, in my church, in my world, now? In the words of Charlie Peacock, “I think I need a personal revolution.”

The Sufficient God

God’s word to me this morning was, “I am the Bread of Life, and I am enough.” I like bread, but I wouldn’t want to eat a meal of bread alone. But God is telling me that He is enough for me.

I have a pressing question in my life right now, and the urgency of time tells me I need the answer yesterday. But God is telling me that it is enough that He is in my life and in my future. I don’t actually need to have all the answers and all the facts in my hands right now. It is enough for me to know that I serve a God who holds my future in His hands.

Hope in the midst of doubt

My prayer this week has been, “Give me grace, dear God, to live with my questions until you are pleased to make my way clear.” And, while my mind is still filled with questions, God is being faithful to bring peace and resolution to the difficult situations that we are facing. 

I was struck this morning in reading the story of Zechariah by the angel’s greeting: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.” Your prayer has been heard?!? Was Zechariah still praying for a son when his wife was post-menopausal? Or was God answering a prayer Zechariah had prayed many times but years ago? 

Obviously, Zechariah did not have the faith to believe the angel’s message, but somewhere deep inside there was a glimmer of hope that God did still have a future for him. He has one for me, too.

Perspective

Douglas Adams once said that the one thing humans cannot afford to have is a sense of perspective. But I beg to differ. Perspective is vitally needed, especially for followers of Jesus. Actually, perspective is what Advent is all about. 

Life is hard. If Christ doesn’t come, if we’re not waiting with a sense of expectation, then life’s little problems (and big ones) mount up, and it becomes unbearable. Witness this week’s suicide of KC weatherman Don Harman. But, hidden under perspective, there is hope.

As I think I’ve mentioned, I’m currently facing a huge ministry challenge. The twists that this has taken this week… well, I don’t know if you’d believe them if I told you. The problem has taken on aspects I never would have imagined, and has involved people with greater earthly power. But, in the spirit of Advent, I’m trying to put those things in perspective and remember that I serve one infinitely greater, that I am not forgotten and that he is working all things for my good.

While they were…

While they were in the midst of Babylonian captivity, Israel received a message from God via Isaiah, telling them to take comfort, because God’s glory was about to be revealed. Isaiah was told to speak words of encouragement (Isa. 40:1-5), telling the people that captivity was over, although they could not yet see the evidence of it. He said, “Get ready to go home. This is over.” It must have been hard for them to accept and believe.

I’ve not experienced anything on the level of the captivity, but right now, I’m feeling like I’m facing the biggest challenge of my life. I’m facing what looks like an almost insurmountable obstacle in ministry. Yet I hear Isaiah’s words of encouragement and take heart. “Help is on the way. Deliverance is already accomplished. ‘For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.'”

Brennan Manning puts it this way, “God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it.”