Posted in Advent/Christmas, Life

Advent Devotional 2022

Excerpt from Week One: Hope

The first week of the Advent season focuses on the theme of Hope. For many of us, hope is a fuzzy concept that often gets mistaken with a fleeting wish or casual desire. Phrases like “I hope you have a great day!” or “I hope this works!,” commonly appear in our everyday conversations. This week we are going to look at the theme of Hope in its biblical context, especially in the lives of the Jewish people of the first century.

For the Jewish people, hope was something that was all but smothered by the oppression they faced from the Roman government. They were a conquered people who were severely limited in their freedom and considered one of the lowest ranked people groups in their society.

Any hope of freedom from their oppressors was based on prophetic words written generations ago. The stories of a coming King hadn’t panned out yet. Popular fiction and a few revolts led by men claiming to be God’s chosen Messiah served to spark momentary glimpses of hope, hope that the faithful God of generations past would be true to his word and deliver his people. But, as time dragged on, revolutions were squashed, potential messiahs were executed, and the spark of hope was quickly smothered leaving them spiritually numb. They were stuck in their situation and most of their hope had withered away. These were truly dark times for God’s people, times foreseen by the prophet Jeremiah when he said,

“I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long….

My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” (Lam. 3:1–3, 17-18 ESV)

It was during this time; a time where hope was scarce; a time when darkness reigned; a time that seemed to stretch on and on with no end in sight, that God spoke. Zechariah, a visiting priest from the outskirts of Jerusalem, was told (by the angel Gabriel) that despite his advanced years, he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. This boy would be The Herald (The Announcer) of a message of hope that would change the course of history.

True to the spiritual numbness of his people, Zechariah doubted. This priest, a man who was supposed to lead others in the worship of God and constantly remind the Jewish people that God was true to his promises, didn’t believe God could or would do something so spectacular. As a result, he was rendered unable to speak until his son was born.

The first words Zechariah uttered, after his speech was restored, are recorded in Luke 1:67-79. They form a beautiful poem that recalls God’s past faithfulness to the people of Israel, recognizes that he is currently at work on their behalf, and looks to the future with anticipation. Through this poem, we can see that Zechariah was beginning to understand what the concept of hope was really all about.

Scripture Reading from the New Testament:

Read Luke 1:67-79

In Zechariah’s poem, we can see that hope finds its meaning in God’s character. It’s a confidence that, despite the situation, God is acting on behalf of his people. Hope acknowledges the present circumstances and views them through the filter of God’s past faithfulness. Even when his action is not evident, when we don’t know how he is working things out for our good, we can look into our past and remember how he has lovingly comforted, rescued, and guided us along the way.

Reflecting on these times is an act of worship. It provides us with a foundation of hope that God is present, here and now, working on our behalf. And, if God has been faithful in the past, is faithful here and now, we can trust that he will also be powerfully at work in the years to come.

Posted in IBAC, Life

Back Nicaragua and Wow!

I’m back from Nicaragua after an awesome week where I was privillaged to see God work in the lives of several pastors from all over the area. I was very privileged to teach from the book of Revelation and cap off the entire series of our New Testament survey course. I’m very tired but jumping right back in to work here at Fellowship Dallas. Thank you so much for your prayers and support! God is definitely moving in Nicaragua! I was privileged to be a small part of what IBAC is up. I was also privileged to be part of the team there. My fellow teachers are amazingly gifted and able to teach with passion and clarity about God’s word. Josué and Michael, wow! Thanks everyone for your prayers and support!

Posted in IBAC

Day #4 in Somotillo with IBAC

I’m wrapping up my fourth day in Somotillo Nicaragua teaching NT Survey with IBAC. God is blessing us in a powerful way! Over 100 pastors from the surrounding rural areas have been traveling daily to be taught solid biblical concepts in order that they can take these things back their own congregations. So far, I’ve Had the privilege of teaching the sections on Cultural Backgrounds of the NT, the life of Jesus, the book of Acts, Galatians and Philippians. Tomorrow I’ll be moving vey quickly through the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, and James. I’ve brought a bit of my own flair for Spiritual Formation with me by adding things like group discussion and directed prayer to the mix. What a privilege to be able to teach through God’s word! Please keep praying for our team!

Posted in Liturgical Prayer

Liturgy of Mark (Updated to Modern Day English)

We give You thanks—yes, more than thanks, O Lord our God—for all Your goodness; at all times and in all places! You have shielded us, rescued us, helped us, and guided us all the days of our lives; bringing us to this very hour.

We pray and cry out to You, merciful God, to grant in Your goodness that we may spend this day —and all the time of our lives—without sin; in fullness of joy, holiness, and reverence of You.

But drive away from us, O Lord, all envy, all fear and all temptations. Lavishly give us what is good and good for us. Whatever sin we commit in thought, word or deed—in Your goodness and mercy—please pardon us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil; through the grace, mercy and love of Your only-begotten Son. Amen. (Liturgy of St. Mark, Updated)

*My humble attempt to provide and modern English update an important prayer from the Liturgy of St. Mark. See full English text here.