Advent Week 1

It All Started with Adam and Eve

God is all knowing. That being the case, we must take into account the fact that he knew sin would enter the world through his most loved creature, the human being. How marvelous that before God made man, he was already setting into motion the plan of salvation for the world. But it might cause us to wonder, “If God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, why did he create them with that ability? Why didn’t he create them with a perfect, pure heart that only desired holiness and worship of God?”

Nature of Children

Let’s consider a child. I would guess that many a perplexed parent has wished that they had a toddler who would behave: not throw tantrums, not bite another child, not say, “no!”, and not run away laughing in a mall full of people. I know exasperated parents raising a teenager who at one time or another wished that their teen would just do what she is supposed to do, be where she says she is going to be, and that she would obediently submit to her parents’ expectations. But even the most taxed parents, would not trade the child with his or her own mind for one without the ability to disobey.

A child who is 100% obedient, who never questions your authority, who is endlessly loving and submissive sounds a lot like a programmed toy. If you ever saw the movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, where the little robot boy imprinted on the mother and was the perfect child, catering to her heart’s longing for a child, that’s what I imagine such a child would be like.  The important difference is that the robot child is not perfectly obedient because he loves the mother, he is perfectly obedient because he is programmed to be that way. It is not a choice, it is a preprogrammed response.

Love’s Nature

What, then, is the nature of love? Anyone who has been in love understands that love cannot be forced.  Love that is not given freely is not love. Generally, obedience that is not motivated from love is coerced by fear of consequences.

God created us with the ability to turn away from him because he created us to love him; to be in relationship with him. Love was at the core of our bond with the Father from Adam’s first breath. That love-motivated obedience and devotion is evidenced for us in the life of Jesus. It was not out of compulsion that he obediently came to this earth, nor was he compelled out of fear to submit to death on the cross – the actions Jesus took were entirely, purely, wholly done in love.

Our obedience to one whose love for us is so profound that he is willing to die in order to free us from ourselves, and draw us into this embrace and call us sons and daughters, is obedience that can easily be done in love. It is love that draws us to Christ, love that calls out to us while we were enemies of God, it is love that provided a means for reconciliation, and it is love that died so that we could live.

A Plan from the Start

God put the Advent in motion from creation – the plan was always to send the Son to be a reconciler of humanity to himself. Throughout history, as documented time after time in the Old Testament and affirmed by Jesus, God was laying out the framework of his plan so that when Messiah arrived, we would be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together and understand the beautiful picture it formed. From imagery of the temple, the priesthood, the sacrificial lamb, and the prophecies about the coming Savior, to God’s faithfulness to the unfaithful throughout the ages, we have been provided the evidence of God’s plan being set out from the beginning.

Read Isaiah 44-45. God is imploring his people to return to him. He is presenting arguments on his behalf about the love he has always intended for them to know if they will only follow him. They have been seeking after other nations and idols and worshiping false gods in hope of salvation. God is reminding them that their only hope is in him.

Read Isaiah 61 God goes on to proclaim to Israel how great their lives can be if they will only trust in the one true God.

Advent Meditation – Love is the Key

Despite his faithfulness and his unfailing love for them, the people would not remain faithful to God. The need for a Savior was only illustrated more clearly by fickle human affections, and recurring patterns of sin.

As we prepare for Advent, think of the picture of God that we have in these passages. He demonstrates that he is a God who desires our affection and wants to shower blessing on us. However, we often get in the way of the blessings by our disobedience. Consider the love given freely to us from the Creator of all things, and think of how you might increase your love for him this season.

  1. How has God demonstrated his faithfulness in your life? Can you think of times and places when he has provided for you in times of emotional, physical, or spiritual need?
  2. As you read the passages in Isaiah, do you see consistencies with the promises of Jesus in the Gospels?
  3. In what ways have you struggled (or do you struggle) with your obedience to God?
  4. Do you get stuck holding onto parts of your life that you either don’t trust him with or don’t want to let go of?
  5. What would it take for you to stop fighting God, or stop trying to rely on yourself, and instead simply love him fully?
  6. Take time and pray each day this week
    •  That God would help you to lay aside all that hinders you from loving him fully and giving yourself completely.
    • Acknowledge the sins, lack of trust, fear, anger, or anything else that you know gets in your way.
    • Ask God to show you other things that are barriers between you and him.

Finally, rest in God. Rest in his loving arms, and experience the peace that he offers in his perfect love.

Mother’s Day musings

I called my Mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. My brother and sister-in-law were there with my sweet nieces, Mara and Decklyn. The phone was passed all around so I got to talk to everyone for a few minutes. I love every one of my family members – my Poppa, Mom, Marion, Shelly, and the girls, but there is just something about those little girls that makes my heart well up with some other kind of love. It’s a love that takes joy in the little tinkling sound of Decklyn’s sweet little child voice, in the maturity and humor in Mara’s too-old-for-her-britches little girl voice. When I hear them say, “Hi Aunt Daylene!” and “I love you, Aunt Daylene,” I just go all squishy inside and want to hug them right through the phone.

I love the development of Skype -it really has changed how my family talks to each other. We all live in different cities – my parents in Topeka, Marion, Shelly and the girls in Columbia, Mo., and of course Andrew and me in Boston. I have lived away from home for about 22 years now and in all those years, I don’t recall Poppa calling me once. However, now that he can Skype me, I hear from him at least a couple of times each month. It’s fantastic! Also, when I talk to the girls, I get to see their faces, and they love to show me their new dance moves and gymnastic ability in the form of cartwheels and such. It has helped me a lot since they are growing up out of my sight so much of the time.

If I were to ever return to the mid-west, it would be in order to be around my nieces. I love them simply, and fully – it’s a weird sensation. I’m not a fan of kids, generally, but these kids are something altogether different. I adore them. My heart feels full and satisfied after I’ve talked to them or spent time with them. It must be just a glimmer of the love that moms have for their children. I see how Shelly loves her girls and I think, that is so far beyond what I have experienced, and yet, I feel like my love for my nieces sometimes could overtake my whole being. I feel ferociously protective of them, and unwaveringly dedicated to seeing them become all they want to be.

A mother’s love – I get what people mean when they say there is nothing like it. If an aunt’s love is only a taste of it, a mother’s love is all-consuming and incredibly powerful. I love the image the Bible gives us of a mother’s love. When a mother is a good mother, she cares for her child adoringly, and yet disciplines him so that he grows to respect her and honors her. God uses the image of a mother’s love to demonstrate how great His concern and love for His people is in Isaiah:

Isa 49:13-16 Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

God loves us so much that even if a mother, the ultimate picture of a nurturing parent, could forget the infant she is nursing, God could never forget us. He is so committed to us that He has engraved us on His palms – a permanent reminder of the children he created and adores. If my love for Mara and Decklyn is just a taste of the love Shelly has for them, then Shelly’s love for her daughters is only a taste of the love God has for them.

Happy Mother’s Day to you. I hope it can serve as a reminder of God’s perfect love for you.