During Advent we prepare ourselves for God to come into our world, our lives, and our hearts anew. In Advent we’re invited to wonder, “What can we do as the Church, as Christ’s body here on earth, to welcome God’s reign of justice and peace today? What can we do as individuals to reorder our lives in the light of God’s love? What would it mean to live as people who truly believe in Jesus as the Savior of all the earth and who expect him to come again at the fulfillment of time?
We invite you to celebrate Advent with us as it begins this Sunday, November 29th. Through the Bible App, we will invite you to join as a church family to reflect on this wonderful hope we have in Jesus through daily bible devotions and meditations.
Please join the daily readings by copying and pasting the link below on your web browser: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/760/together/35776487/invitation?token=2PhSr4mi6hwpH-97mTZGeA&source=share
In the parable of The Persistent Widow, Jesus tells of a marginalized woman seeking justice from a local judge. The judge is an arrogant, corrupt man with no regard for God nor his neighbors. Yet, through her relentless pestering the judge acquiesces and grants the widow her request. Jesus teaches us to pray with the persistence of the widow because if a corrupt judge is persuaded to grant justice how much more willing is our loving father to answer the prayers of his children when he hears our cry?
Like the widow who never relinquished her quest for justice, Jesus compels us to be unyielding in our faith; resolute in prayer through both good times and bad. Adversity tempers faith bringing us closer to God. Each trial overcome bridges the separation between the father and his followers until we live fully in his presence. God desires diligent, patient followers who trust in his faithfulness and rains down justice on those who seek.
Prayer is a spiritual discipline that demonstrates our desire for God’s love and mercy. He created us in his image and our desire for justice reflects his own love of righteousness. Through this practice we seek to establish authentic communication with God. Like worship through song, prayer should be a joyful experience glorifying the heavenly father. But passionate and committed prayer is difficult, especially in this of age rapidly changing technology. Our attention is easily diverted as a deluge of information drowns our thoughts. We preoccupy ourselves with business and the minutiae of daily life. Spirituality takes a back seat to what we suddenly regard as critical. This myopic perspective drives God from the center of our lives. But prayer restores the balance compelling us to turn to God for all our needs.
Prayer concentrates our focus on God and builds faith that is the foundation of our relationship with the creator. But even more, the act places us in spiritual proximity to God and thus eradicates the mystery of trying to discover who we are through the narrow scope of humanity. Instead, we are blessed with the understanding that God perceives us with perfect and unconditional love. He is faithful and dedicated to justice, shielding us from the despair that turns many to embrace sin. Without him, life is little more than a vacant stopover between birth and death. This parable reminds us God is just and faithful. He will make things right, in his time. Prayer constantly brings us back into the heart of God…where we can see God’s ultimate justice and rest in his present goodness.
Yet, many avoid consistent prayer out of a fear that they lack eloquent words or can’t quote scripture at the drop of a hat. God isn’t seeking poetic rhetoric, only sincere words spoken from the heart. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:5, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Jesus entrusts us with the duty of steadfast, dedicated prayer, placing our faith in God’s will. Though we hope for a swift answer, we cannot question God’s timing and must pray with a humble, committed heart. Prayer empowers us to abandon our self-centered obsessions and petty concerns for everyday life so we may profess our allegiance to the heavenly father. When we look at the miracle of creation; our children, nature, a cool breeze on our face, what other choice do we have than to pray to God in gratitude?
The parable of The Persistent Widow makes clear the importance of constant prayer. But more than petitioning God, prayer demonstrates our continual devotion to the creator. The act proclaims our gratitude for Jesus’s sacrifice and zealous anticipation for his return. In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Let our persistence in prayer and absolute faith be the answer.
“Hooks to hang doubt on” was a phrase I wrote in chapter 11 of Love’s Playbook 5. It describes a very important God-decision in the theory of freedom. God could wow us and overwhelm us with the reality of His existence, presence and power, but He doesn’t. “They” don’t because it would actually take away or ruin our freedom. In order for us to be truly free to make our own decision there has to be evidence of both good and evil that is balanced and adequate for us to consider and make a choice. There even have to be questions about God.
Scripture says God is all good. But in some places it looks like God is both good and evil. This increasingly bothered me as I grew up. Maybe I started reading too young without guidance (though there weren’t many Christians questioning then). Years later I wanted to believe God was good, and wanted to understand those passages, I did find some help, but I found that most of the people I read, or talked to, weren’t able to explain them. The collective consciousness hadn’t grown enough to push scholarship to understand. I find it still hasn’t.
Somehow it became very important to me to understand. I can’t even say when or how it started. But it became a burning desire to know and show that God is all good–even in gnarly hard-to-understand scriptures. I really didn’t think about how.
When the idea first came, it was so huge I dismissed it. When I actually began to consider writing a version of the Bible as a story making God look all good, I couldn’t imagine how I would. I questioned writing the flood story before I committed to start. I did think that far ahead, but not further–it’s in the first five chapters, and God said, “Don’t worry. We’ll help you.” And They did!
Now past the first five books, I don’t worry about that–we have gone through some really difficult stories and concepts, and They have always made it plain. I thought today, reading one with my group, I wish I had made it plainer. Some concepts are so big and so new it’s difficult to find words to express them.
I’m grateful my pastor wants our church to read through the Bible this year, and chose what seems to be a really good plan–the You Version that so far has, on average, two chapters of Genesis and two of Matthew, one in Psalms and a few verses in Proverbs every day. It’s the New Living Translation which is well-done and you can listen to it instead of read it!
My husband and I have been listening, and even though it is well-done and up-dated, there are still places that make me cringe. I realize in a translation you can’t explain the background, emotion, etc., like I get to in telling the story.
For example in the 3rd chapter of Genesis it sounds like God cursed the man, the woman and the ground. If you read very carefully you see that it wasn’t God cursing, it was sin, the choice to know evil; God just described the curse that evil brought. The only curse Adonai may have actually chosen was the serpent’s. Again through careful and extra reading, it seems it was a beautiful creature who lost it’s beauty and wings.
God put hatred between Satan and God’s children. (3:15) What a blessing that was! God made sure, right then, that we would still retain 50% of Their character of good to begin with so we wouldn’t be all evil! From then on it comes from our choices as we see in the next chapter with Cain. But that isn’t easy to see either unless you take the time to unpack it and really get into what God is saying and why, as well as what Cain is saying (and not saying) and why.
I was so glad that Matthew 13 came a few days later where Jesus alludes to the war in the universe and who the enemy is that is responsible for evil. (It was only a few days later for us because we were starting late and doubling up on reading.)
There are other questions, but then there is Genesis 38. And you think Where did this story come from and why in the world is this in the Bible? Obviously, Jethro told Moses, and there is a lot left out. That is exactly why I’m writing–to slow it down and fill in the backstory, the emotion, the family systems thinking. The story could get bogged down, so necessarily explanations have to be brief.
You won’t get through the Bible in a year, but a chapter a night (or morning) in Love’s Playbooks would move you through the first five Bible books, plus Job, in six months. And they contain some of the hardest stories to understand when reading fast. And if it takes a year, that’s ok. Understanding who God is and how it all fits together is important.
Reading fast is good for perspective. And when you get bogged down with questions, my books are there now. Freedom demands that there are hooks for doubt so that only sincere seekers find the answers. Only the whole-hearted are safe to have around for eternity.
Blessings of trust and hope,
Be careful how you see, your perception creates your reality.
Imagine a church as a storefront with a huge window that boasts the most beautiful, amazing piece of clothing that was ever seen.
It’s flowing like a robe, but advertised as the one piece of clothing you will ever need. It fits every one who puts it on perfectly from head to toe. It moves with you, never impedes movement, never in your way, breathes, is always perfect for the climate you’re in—cool in summer, warm in winter, and more cozy and comfortable than your old faded cotton pajamas.
And the look of it—no one can describe it. But no one ever gets tired of looking at it. It looks soft and inviting, yet regal and stately. It shimmers and sparkles but is never gaudy or obtrusive, never shouts look at me! It always looks appropriate, never dowdy, and never embarrassing.
When you’re wearing it, people look at you; you see in their eyes You look terrific! They smile and say, “Love that outfit, you look so good in it.” as though you’ve never worn it before. EVERY time! In fact they look at you again and again as though they just can’t look at you enough. When they invite you anywhere, they say “Wear that robe thing.” They never get tired of seeing it.
People ask, “Where did you get that?”
And you always answer, “A friend gave it to me.”
“Really?” They ask. “How could I get one?”
“You just have to ask,” you say. “Just have to be his friend.”
“But can I buy one?”
“No,” you say.”He doesn’t sell them.”
“But surely for the right price…” they counter.
“They aren’t for sale.”
“Not even for a million dollars for one robe?”
“Not even a billion for one robe.”
They look at you like you’re crazy. So you say, “They are priceless. There isn’t enough money in the world to buy one.”
“But they’re a gift?” they are almost sarcastic now.
“Right” you respond.
“And I can get one? Is this guy like impossible to like or something, that he bribes people with these clothes?”
“No, he is actually the nicest, most caring, most helpful, most respectful, most encouraging friend I’ve ever had.”
“Ok, then what’s the catch? Nobody gives something of value for nothing.”
“I already told you, you have to let him be your friend, let him love you.”
“Ah, so that’s it. He wants to control you. Buy you with that robe, so he can own you and do whatever he wants with you or to you. Your his love slave.”
“No, it’s not like that. He really just wants you to be your best self. As I said, he wants to be your best friend. He wants to love you into your truest self. That’s why he gives you the robe. It makes you look your best, feel your best, do your best. It covers all the things you don’t like about you, all the scars you have. It makes you beautiful because he wants you beautiful and happy and free, strong and able to love.”
“Wow!” they say, heads shaking. “Wow! Tell me more about your friend.”
Is this overstating the graciousness of God? I don’t think so. This is how I see it—how I see Him and His gift of identity.
I haven’t fully experienced it yet, but I “get” more and more of Him.
To find other works by Arla, you can visit her blog @ arlasoveralls.wordpress.com