BEHOLD A DAILY DEVOTIONAL FOR ADVENT 2018
FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP CONNECTS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS TO ENGAGE THE WORLD’S LEAST-REACHED PEOPLES + PLACES WITH THE GOOD NEWS OF HIS KINGDOM. THROUGH INTERCULTURAL PARTNERSHIPS, WE’RE WORKING FOR THE FLOURISHING OF COMMUNITIES + CREATING AVENUES OF ACCESS TO THE GOSPEL FOR THOSE STILL WAITING TO HEAR IT. VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM TO LEARN MORE.
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INTRODUCTION Natural disasters. A royal wedding. The Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. A cave rescue in Thailand. Historic meetings between world leaders. Mass shootings in the United States. The World Cup. Continuing conflict in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Gaza, Myanmar and beyond. In 2018, the world population reached 7.6 billion, including 68.5 million people displaced by violence, persecution or war. Some borders began to open while others closed even more tightly. These and other events captured our global attention over the past year. Together we mourned, prayed, held our collective breath, protested, celebrated. In the midst of all that unfolded, God was also inviting us to lean closer—to listen for the shift in the wind carrying echoes of the life to come. While we live in the tension of the now-and-not-yet, how might we look with prophetic imagination and see the world for what it will be when His Kingdom comes in all its fullness? The following pages include reflections from Frontier Fellowship staff, board members and ministry friends who’ve witnessed God at work among the world’s least-reached peoples and places. As we look toward these physical and spiritual frontiers, our longing for His future redemption opens our eyes to the grace unfolding now while we join Him in enacting the realities of His Kingdom. This Advent season, God invites us to behold—to recognize signs of life springing up in once desolate places, the dry riverbeds now flowing with fresh water and bringing renewal and transformation along their banks. And most miraculously, He invites us to behold His Son. The one whose birth angels announced as Good News for all people, who gave Himself to reconcile humanity back to the Father and now sits on heaven’s throne making all things new. Join us as we celebrate the hope Jesus’ entrance into our world makes possible and wait with confidence for His final restoration of all creation.
BEHOLD, I AM DOING A NEW THING; NOW IT SPRINGS FORTH, DO YOU NOT PERCEIVE IT? I WILL MAKE A WAY IN THE WILDERNESS + RIVERS IN THE DESERT. ISAIAH 43:19 (ESV)
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 2 REV. DR. RICHARD HANEY, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
NOW AFTER JESUS WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM OF JUDEA IN THE DAYS OF HEROD THE KING, BEHOLD, WISE MEN FROM THE EAST CAME TO JERUSALEM, SAYING, “WHERE IS HE WHO HAS BEEN BORN KING OF THE JEWS? FOR WE SAW HIS STAR WHEN IT ROSE AND HAVE COME TO WORSHIP HIM.” —MATTHEW 2:1–2 (ESV)
Long before a star appeared over Bethlehem the first Christmas night, ancient prophecies foretold the coming of a Messiah-King who would save people from their sins and gather them into God’s reconciled family: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV); “O Bethlehem…from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2 ESV); “a star shall come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17 ESV). Throughout the years, the people of Israel searched and yearned for signs of this Savior. Would they recognize Him at His coming? Centuries later, a star marking the Messiah’s birth rose over Bethlehem, and the people of Israel weren’t the only ones watching. Magi from the East, likely Persian intellectuals who studied ancient lore and astronomy, noticed one new, unusual star among the billions hanging over the Northern Hemisphere. Recognizing the significance of this sign, they followed the star on a months-long journey to find and pay homage to Israel’s newborn King. The inclusion of the Magi in the narrative of Jesus’ birth offers us another sign: God’s promised redemption isn’t for Jewish people alone, but for all peoples of the earth who seek Him. As we grow in our faith, we learn to notice signs of hope and grace— glimpses of the Kingdom dawning around us. We learn to live in anticipation and readiness, and our eyes and ears begin to focus more clearly on recognizing Good News in the midst of a distracted world. There are over two billion people still waiting to see the signs of Jesus, yet many are searching for hope, peace, a better way. When God set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), He instilled in us a longing for Him that nothing else can satisfy. And He continues to draw all who seek Him into His story (Acts 17:27). Ask God today to open your eyes and ears to see and hear signs of His coming Kingdom. Where do you see hope? Where do you hear God’s promise? How might you share this Good News with others? 3
MONDAY, DECEMBER 3 REV. DR. CODY WATSON, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
THE PEOPLE WHO WALKED IN DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT; THOSE WHO LIVED IN A LAND OF DEEP DARKNESS–– ON THEM LIGHT HAS SHINED. —ISAIAH 9:2 (NRSV)
I first heard Graham Kendrick’s song, “Shine Jesus Shine,” nearly 30 years ago in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Its lyrics remain my heart’s cry: “Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us…” Light is essential to our survival. In prolonged darkness, sight is impaired and distorted. Lacking sunlight, plants wither. Without the light of Jesus, our ability to flourish is likewise diminished. We have no sense of direction and struggle to grow in our understanding of the truth. When the prophet Isaiah received a vision of the future, he saw a person of peace who would deliver lost people—a person of light who would shine into the darkness. We believe that person was Jesus, the Light of the world (John 8:12). The Hindu celebration Diwali, the “festival of lights,” reflects humanity’s longing for spiritual light and the triumph of good over evil. In North India, Diwali commemorates the story of King Rama’s victory over the demon king, Ravana. During the five-day celebration, every home is filled with diyas (clay lamps), leaving no room for darkness to enter and inviting prosperity and blessing for the coming year. When God makes all things new, He calls people living in darkness into the light. He brings order into chaos and hope into despair. Spiritual light isn’t merely a byproduct of God’s work among us—when light comes, it’s Jesus Himself. His truth illumines the places of our hearts that are longing for grace. As our eyes open to see new realities of His Kingdom, He calls us to take these truths into the dark places of the world with Light—Christ, our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)—shining in and through us. Many of us will light candles this Advent season. The next time you do, notice how only a little light dispels the dark. Take some time to pray: Who hasn’t heard the Gospel? Where do they live? How can I help? Thank God for rescuing us from the power of darkness and bringing us into His Kingdom through the work of Jesus (Colossians 1:13–14). “Send forth Your word, Lord, and let there be light.” 4
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4 DR. TALIILEE FIQRUU, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND LIVED AMONG US, AND WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, THE GLORY AS OF A FATHER’S ONLY SON, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. —JOHN 1:14 (NRSV)
John opens his Gospel narrative with a “second Genesis” account. He speaks of the Word, present from the beginning, who was with God and was God. All things were created through this Word. John is describing Jesus, the eternal Word of God. God has always been active in human history—calling creation into existence, rescuing His people from bondage, speaking through the law and the prophets. He becomes even more intimately involved as Jesus takes on human flesh and literally dwells among us. When God “move[s] into the neighborhood” (John 1:14 MSG), He makes His home in our cultures and contexts. Because humanity is created in His image, each person and every people group bears His likeness. The grace and truth of Jesus don’t neutralize our backgrounds and circumstances—instead He comes to restore and revitalize us into joyful relationship with the Father. In a rural Arsi Oromo community in Ethiopia, a small church gathers to worship but doesn’t use the local language. Instead, they preach in Amharic, the national language. One day, a Light of Hope Ministry Ethiopia team asked the villagers about the church. The neighbors responded, “We don’t know what they do, but they come, they sing and they leave.” If we don’t identify with and make our home among the people we’re called to reach, how can we effectively communicate the love of God? Jesus models to us the importance of identification with the people to whom He’s called us to carry the Good News. By learning their language and culture, we can effectively communicate the joyful message of Jesus and His Kingdom. Are there people in your community who don’t share your culture or language? Learn their names. Ask them to teach you how to say “hello” and “thank you” in their language. Invite them to meet you for a cup of coffee. Practice the incarnation of Jesus by sacrificing your comfort to share the realities of their lives—meeting and loving them where they are. 5
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5 BOB VON SCHIMMELMANN, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP MISSION ADVOCATE
FOR AS THE RAIN AND THE SNOW COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, AND DO NOT RETURN THERE UNTIL THEY HAVE WATERED THE EARTH, MAKING IT BRING FORTH AND SPROUT…SO SHALL MY WORD BE THAT GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH; IT SHALL NOT RETURN TO ME EMPTY, BUT IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH THAT WHICH I PURPOSE…. —ISAIAH 55:10–11 (NRSV)
I recently returned from a visit to Southwest Ethiopia. This beautiful region of savanna and rolling hills, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Addis Ababa, borders the Great Rift Valley. Southwest Ethiopia is home to the Dizi and Suri people groups. Both are predominately nomadic cattle herders and farmers. Neither of these oral cultures has ever had a written form of their language, let alone any kind of Bible translation, until now. Linguists recently developed written forms of the Dizi and Suri languages in support of Bible translation projects. The written word is so new to these people groups that their languages have never been used in educational settings. For years, students have instead learned to read and write in Amharic, a language not their own. A literacy worker among the Suri is using newly translated Bible stories and portions of scripture—the only printed material that exists in the Suri language—to teach children and adults how to read and write in their heart language. Bible translators among the Dizi hope to begin a similar literacy program soon. Bible translation is one way God makes Himself accessible and understood. But is Bible translation good news for people who aren’t able to read it? Translators among the Dizi and Suri don’t think so. They’re joining God’s Kingdom-building work by making scripture available in people’s heart languages and teaching them how to read it for themselves. In Isaiah 55:11, God speaks the following promises of His Word: “I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (NLT). Give thanks today for all that God is accomplishing through Bible translation and literacy programs around the world. Pray for translators and literacy experts—and if you can, contribute financially to their ongoing work—as they open avenues of access for people to know God. 6
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6 DR. BONNIE SUE LEWIS, PROFESSOR OF MISSION + WORLD CHRISTIANITY, UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
BEHOLD, NOW IS THE FAVORABLE TIME; BEHOLD, NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION. —2 CORINTHIANS 6:2B (ESV)
Engaged in a defense of his apostleship before the Christians at Corinth, Paul describes their experience of salvation that began when they first committed themselves to Christ and will be fully accomplished at Christ’s return. He urges them “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1 NRSV). Paul’s message for the Church in today’s reading is a strong reminder to all Christians of the precious gift we receive through Jesus: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” It’s a salvation from the sin that encompasses us, and it’s intended for all people—from every ethnolinguistic group on earth. The very name Jesus means “the Lord saves,” and it has been God’s mission since creation that the world He so loves would come to Him through the grace and power of His Son. As the psalmist writes, “The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations” (Psalm 98:2 ESV). Until that day when “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11 ESV), we have the privilege and joy of participating with God in making known “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9 ESV). May we do so among the nations with boldness and humility. As you reflect on the salvation you’ve received through Christ, what aspects of this gift are you most grateful for today? Take some time to ask God how you might share the Good News of His salvation with others who haven’t yet heard of His grace. Celebrate the glad tidings we’ve received to proclaim to a waiting world—“Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9 ESV).
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7 REV. DR. HAEMIN LEE, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
ARISE, SHINE, FOR YOUR LIGHT HAS COME, AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD HAS RISEN UPON YOU. FOR BEHOLD, DARKNESS SHALL COVER THE EARTH…BUT THE LORD WILL ARISE UPON YOU, AND HIS GLORY WILL BE SEEN UPON YOU. AND NATIONS SHALL COME TO YOUR LIGHT, AND KINGS TO THE BRIGHTNESS OF YOUR RISING. —ISAIAH 60:1–3 (ESV)
Imagine you’re in the countryside at night, far away from the glow of city lights. It’s pitch dark and you can barely see your surroundings. You feel disoriented until your eyes adjust. Then you look up––countless shining objects cut through the darkness, their light traversing years and miles of time and space to meet your eyes. Stars, bursting with energy, radiate their own light. The moon, comets and distant planets— without their own source of brightness—come alive as they reflect the brilliance of the sun. In today’s scripture, the prophet Isaiah observes that without the knowledge of God’s glory, the earth is bound in spiritual darkness. There is much brokenness and suffering around the world today, and many people live in despair without the Good News of Jesus. But that’s not the end of the story. God’s glory is rising, and His people, like gleaming planets in the night sky, respond as radiant beacons of hope for a world shrouded in shadows. Through the faithful witness of His people, God is drawing humanity to Himself. There are currently about 30,000 South Korean missionaries serving in more than 170 countries. Backed by spiritual fervor, missionary zeal and economic development, South Korea has become one of the largest missionary-sending countries in the world. With passports that give them access to nations that have been historically resistant to the Gospel, South Korean Christians are reflecting God’s bright light in places and among peoples eager to hear the Good News. We, too, have the incredible privilege of reflecting God’s glory and incarnating His love wherever He calls us to go, helping illuminate the path for others into His Kingdom (Daniel 12:3). Take some time today to meditate on God’s glory. Where do you experience His glory shining the brightest? Is there a particular person, place or community close to your heart that needs to experience God’s glory and goodness? How might you reflect Him there?
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8 REV. DR. JON HEERINGA, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP BOARD MEMBER
I WILL GIVE THEM ONE HEART, AND PUT A NEW SPIRIT WITHIN THEM; I WILL REMOVE THE HEART OF STONE FROM THEIR FLESH AND GIVE THEM A HEART OF FLESH, SO THAT THEY MAY FOLLOW MY STATUTES…. THEN THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD. ––EZEKIEL 11:19–20 (NRSV)
A new heart! A new creation! These are the promises of Advent. This is what Israel was waiting for and what we receive through Jesus. Ezekiel spoke God’s promise of a new heart while many Jews were exiled in Babylon. God recognized the tendency of His people toward idolatry. The new heart He promised would enable them to live undivided lives, wholly devoted to Him. A member of the congregation I serve is one of the world’s longestliving heart transplant recipients. Twenty-seven years ago, his heart function was down to about 5%, and he lay in a hospital bed totally incapacitated. After receiving a heart transplant, his feeble existence was transformed into an incredibly active life. He enjoys travel, the beach, even skiing. He knows it’s only a matter of time before this heart, too, wears out, but until then he’s determined—and now able—to live life to the fullest. Before knowing Jesus, our hearts weren’t just at 5% function. Our hearts were dead. They were cold, hard stone—useless and immovable. But through Jesus, we received a heart transplant. Our lifeless, unresponsive hearts of stone were replaced with living, beating hearts of flesh that will never wear out. Like a healthy, hard-working muscle, the new hearts God gives are strong, allowing us to live at full capacity the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10). One of the ways we train our spiritual hearts to remain healthy is by following what God shows us through His Word. This includes His command to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19–20). God desires that no one should perish (2 Peter 3:9), that everyone would receive the new heart He has promised. By transforming our hearts, He gives us the means and motivation to join His redemptive mission. So let’s put our new hearts to work. Thank God for the gift of a new heart. Pray for people who are still waiting to hear the Good News of the heart transplant Jesus makes possible. Send a gift or an encouraging note to someone who’s sharing the incredible message that God can replace a dead heart for one full of life. 9
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9 CAITLIN O’HARE, BOARD MEMBER OF THE OUTREACH FOUNDATION
BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL, AND DO NOT FORGET ALL HIS BENEFITS––WHO FORGIVES ALL YOUR INIQUITY, WHO HEALS ALL YOUR DISEASES, WHO REDEEMS YOUR LIFE…WHO CROWNS YOU WITH STEADFAST LOVE AND MERCY, WHO SATISFIES YOU WITH GOOD AS LONG AS YOU LIVE…. ––PSALM 103:2–5 (NRSV)
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” —Abraham Kuyper Dignity. Every human being needs it to thrive. Without dignity we feel ashamed, broken, helpless, in despair, inferior, hopeless. For many around the world, prolonged illness or physical disabilities can lead to both a perceived and felt loss of dignity. In some places, people with special needs and their families face social stigma. Chronic conditions isolate community members. Cultural beliefs and superstitions create divisions. But Jesus changes everything. He is Lord of everything. That includes our physical bodies. Throughout His ministry, Jesus shows His concern for people as holistic beings. Our bodies and lives aren’t separated into disparate aspects of spiritual, physical and psychological. We’re interwoven and interconnected in ways we don’t yet fully understand, but Jesus does. Whether a woman bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5:25–34), a blind man (Mark 10:46–52), a demon-possessed girl (Matthew 15:21–28), a paralytic (Mark 2:1–12) or even a dead man (John 11:38–44), scripture makes clear that Jesus’ compassion and love are often displayed through the healing of body, mind and soul. Healing becomes a sign of the rule and reign of God—a preview of coming attractions. The redemption and restoration of all things. Jesus also makes new our attitudes towards those suffering from disease, illness or addiction. He reveals the sinfulness and brokenness in our cultures, prejudices and assumptions. He declares all humanity made in the image of God—worthy of love, respect and dignity. The Good News of God’s Kingdom is that He heals us wholly, leaving nothing untouched. And while many may not experience complete physical healing in this life, we have assurance of new life to come. Does your body, mind or soul cry out for renewal? Ask Him to show Himself strong where you feel weak, fearful or vulnerable. Pray for people you know who need Jesus’ healing. Pray for those you don’t know—and may never meet—who need to encounter Him. Praise God for replacing our brokenness and shame with a crown of grace and satisfying our need with His abundance.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 10 REV. DONALD MARSDEN, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
FOR THUS SAYS THE LORD GOD: I MYSELF WILL SEARCH FOR MY SHEEP, AND WILL SEEK THEM OUT. —EZEKIEL 34:11 (NRSV)
In the Gospels, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep by name (John 10:3) and goes to great lengths to find even one lost sheep (Luke 15:3–7). Like Ezekiel 34:11, scripture reveals God as one who finds the lost, sees the hidden and remembers the forgotten. Several years ago, I met a young man named Andrei while teaching in Omsk, Siberia. Andrei is a common Russian name, but his surname, Nyepomnyashikh, was unusual. When I asked about it, he explained that members of his family were placed in a concentration camp during World War II, and under the severe conditions of the time, the family name was lost. When they were eventually liberated at the end of the war, they were given the name Nyepomnyashikh—“Not Remembered.” But God did not forget. Although his ancestry was lost, Andrei was remembered by God. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, found him and brought him into His fold of followers. Jesus is searching for lost sheep all across the globe. In Niger, He’s seeking and finding receptive hearts among people groups like the Hausa, Fulani and Tuareg. He’s using ministries like the Eglise Evangélique de la République du Niger, which is working towards sending evangelists to share the Gospel in each of Niger’s 50 districts. These evangelists and their families leave the comfort and stability of their communities and relocate to regions where no one has heard the Gospel. Sometimes they must travel long distances on unpaved roads to reach people in remote villages. At times they encounter resistance and suffering, but God continues to strengthen their commitment. There are more than two billion people on earth still waiting to meet Jesus, the Good Shepherd. But He hasn’t forgotten them—and calls us to join Him as He searches for and welcomes them into His fold. Pray today for unreached people groups. Thank God for remembering them, even when overlooked or unseen by the rest of the world. Ask Him to empower His Church to take the Good News into every waiting community. How is He calling you to welcome others into His Kingdom? 11
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11 DENISE SCIUTO, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
I WILL LEAD THE BLIND BY A ROAD THEY DO NOT KNOW…. I WILL TURN THE DARKNESS BEFORE THEM INTO LIGHT, THE ROUGH PLACES INTO LEVEL GROUND. THESE ARE THE THINGS I WILL DO, AND I WILL NOT FORSAKE THEM. —ISAIAH 42:16 (NRSV)
The book of Isaiah describes God’s judgment and restoration as He establishes His Kingdom on earth. While Isaiah issues many warnings to people regarding their rebellious actions and attitudes, the book is also brimming with God’s compassion and His promise to rescue His people—a foreshadowing of God’s plan to bring salvation to everyone through Christ. Today’s passage describes one such promise—that God will guide the blind, enabling them to traverse unfamiliar and uneven paths by offering light to illuminate the darkness and the assurance of His presence. This promise gives me hope for the unprecedented number of people who are displaced worldwide today. Surely God will lovingly guide weary refugees, leading them to places of safety, stability and rest. As conflict and famine persist in Sudan and South Sudan, many people have fled to refugee camps for safety. Yet in the midst of tragedy, God isn’t far off, making His compassionate presence known through South Sudanese followers of Jesus. Long before the current crisis unfolded, God had already begun turning the rough places into level ground— forming relationships and partnerships between pastors and ministries who are now united in caring for the uprooted. People groups that were previously without access to the Gospel are now not only finding physical shelter in refugee camps, but also encountering spiritual refuge in the Good News of Jesus. As you reflect on Isaiah 42:16, are there places in your own journey where you feel blind, where the road ahead seems unfamiliar? Ask God to light the next step. Ask Him to show you how you can embody His loving presence to others who may feel blind, especially immigrants and refugees navigating unfamiliar territory. Support ministries serving the displaced or invite a refugee into your home for a meal. Pray that God will make uncertain paths traversable through His grace and guide weary wanderers to a place of peace.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12 BECCA LEHDE, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP BOARD MEMBER
BUT THIS I CALL TO MIND, AND THEREFORE I HAVE HOPE: THE STEADFAST LOVE OF THE LORD NEVER CEASES, HIS MERCIES NEVER COME TO AN END; THEY ARE NEW EVERY MORNING; GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS. “THE LORD IS MY PORTION,” SAYS MY SOUL, “THEREFORE I WILL HOPE IN HIM.” —LAMENTATIONS 3:21–24 (NRSV)
There’s a tendency for the joy of salvation to fade into the slump of everyday life. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to dig myself out of a deep hole, and the only thing I succeed in doing is piling more dirt on myself, not getting an inch closer to the top. I’ve learned to be self-sufficient, to creatively troubleshoot whatever’s wrong and only ask for help when my own methods aren’t working anymore. It’s human nature to want to be loved and accepted. God made us to desire those things. But sin has so damaged our relationship with God that many of us find it difficult to accept His grace. So we strive to prove ourselves, to do enough to be found worthy. Many religions, including legalistic forms of Christianity (practiced outside the grace of Jesus), further compel people toward self-reliance: do enough good to outweigh your sin and thus earn your salvation. In Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah grieves God’s judgment over sin and its consequences. But in today’s reading, his sorrow turns to hope as he recalls that God’s nature is compassion expressed through grace and mercy. His faithfulness is a love that endures in all circumstances. Because of sin, we’re not just broken people, we’re dead people. And there’s nothing we can do to pull ourselves up out of the grave. But God, whose love, mercy and faithfulness know no bounds, demonstrated His kindness to us by sending His Son who triumphed over sin (Romans 5:8). It’s Jesus who makes us alive again, and it’s His kindness that continually leads us to repentance and new life, no matter how often we fail (Ephesians 2:1–7, Romans 2:4). Even as we experience fresh mercies from God each day, it will still take all of eternity to reveal the extent of His kindness to us. As you prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, thank God for showing you His kindness by sending Jesus to earth. Thank Him for making you alive again through Christ, freeing you from an endless cycle of trying to atone for your sin and become righteous based on your merit. And ask Him to show you how to extend such lavish mercy to others. 13
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13 RITA JOHNSON, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
BEHOLD MY SERVANT…IN WHOM MY SOUL DELIGHTS.… A BRUISED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK, AND A FAINTLY BURNING WICK HE WILL NOT QUENCH…. HE WILL NOT GROW FAINT OR BE DISCOURAGED TILL HE HAS ESTABLISHED JUSTICE IN THE EARTH…. —ISAIAH 42:1–4 (ESV)
Isaiah 42 is the first of Isaiah’s four “servant songs.” These poems describe the servant of the Lord who suffered both pain and humiliation in his ministry of serving God and bringing about justice. The Church has long associated this servant with Jesus. Jesus’ compassion and humility mark His embrace of the lowly and signal that His ultimate mission is to save others through His atoning death. The Servant absorbs pain and evil to redeem both the abuser and the abused. His gentleness welcomes those who need kindness and care. A few brave and dedicated Central Asian women are following in Jesus’ footsteps by facilitating ministries that provide shelter, prayer, vocational training and other services for those who’ve been sexually exploited or abused—women who suffer shame and rejection from their families and society and often have nowhere else to turn. With a gentle, gracious welcome to a place of safety, women are treated with kindness and patience as they journey toward healing and restoration. The sisters in Christ who operate these shelters share the honor that comes from being a beloved daughter of God, echoing His promise: “I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth” (Zephaniah 3:19b ESV). This ministry of rehabilitation is challenging, yet the women who serve are faithful day after day and month after month. Looking to God as a loving Father, they receive encouragement to carry on, living—as Jesus did—in reliance on Him for strength and renewal. How can we rely more on the Holy Spirit as we accompany others on the path from shame and suffering to honor and restoration? Jesus’ “justice traits” show us the way. Treat “bruised reeds” with gentleness, encourage the “faintly burning wicks” to not give up, don’t yield to discouragement in advocacy or service. Take some time today to consider people in your community or around the world who are suffering at the hands of oppressive people or systems. How might God call you to be an agent of justice on behalf of those waiting for restoration? 14
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14 SEAN WALKER, OPERATIONS COORDINATOR FOR THE ANTIOCH PARTNERS
BEHOLD, THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD IS WITH MAN. HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM, AND THEY WILL BE HIS PEOPLE…. HE WILL WIPE AWAY EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES, AND DEATH SHALL BE NO MORE, NEITHER SHALL THERE BE MOURNING… FOR THE FORMER THINGS HAVE PASSED AWAY. —REVELATION 21:3–4 (ESV)
The women’s piercing cries were more bone-chilling than the freezing air that winter day. I was standing in the snow outside a havli* in a remote Central Asian village to pay respects to the deceased brother and young niece of a colleague. The brother had tried to clear clogged water pipes using the only means available to him—a tank of propane. While his daughter watched by his side, the gas ignited, enveloping them in flames. As the men carried their coffins to the cemetery, the women followed, wailing and clutching one another in grief. My heart broke as I shared their sorrow—a profound reminder of the fragility and pain of our humanity. But into the misery of our condition, God speaks words of hope and promise from Revelation 21. A time is coming when all suffering and sadness and death will be redeemed in God’s new creation, and God Himself will make His home with us. It sounds almost too good to be true! But these words were spoken nearly 2,000 years ago, and still we long for deliverance (Romans 8:22–23). Has God forgotten His promise? Is it all just wishful thinking? John’s Gospel reminds us that once before, God came and made His home with us: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 ESV). By choosing to live among us, Jesus entered into the pain and tragedy of the human experience. He’s well acquainted with our grief, because He experienced it Himself (Isaiah 53:3). He wept, was rejected, suffered and even died. But He also defeated death, rising again to new life, and “put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:22 NIV). This Good News is ours to share! Recall a time when God met you in a place of suffering or sorrow. How did you experience His presence? Ask God to show you situations where grief, pain and tragedy need to be met with empathy, encouragement and the hope of Jesus. How might God use you to embody His comfort and compassion for those still waiting for joy? *a walled compound with a courtyard that serves as a multi-generational home
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15 CINDY M. WU, CO-AUTHOR OF OUR GLOBAL FAMILIES: CHRISTIANS EMBRACING COMMON IDENTITY IN A CHANGING WORLD + AUTHOR OF A BETTER COUNTRY: EMBRACING THE REFUGEES IN OUR MIDST
LET THEM THANK THE LORD FOR HIS STEADFAST LOVE, FOR HIS WONDERFUL WORKS TO HUMANKIND. FOR HE SATISFIES THE THIRSTY, AND THE HUNGRY HE FILLS WITH GOOD THINGS. —PSALM 107:8–9 (NRSV)
I recently went around the dinner table and asked my family what they wished they had more of. The responses came immediately: time, money, sleep, leisure, peace, to name a few. When I asked what they had plenty of, however, those responses required more thought. I recalled my year in Mexico, straight out of college, when I lived with a Mexican family who welcomed me into their home as a daughter and sister. They lived in an overcrowded, under-resourced neighborhood, and for one memorable year I shared a table (and just two toilets) with 13 members of the Cortés family. Every day, Mama Vicky fed me delicious home cooking. She also fed me back to health—after a scolding—when I got sick from eating street food against her advice. The entire family provided for me not out of the bounty of their material riches, but from a place of sacrifice and generosity. I felt richly loved. Those experiences of abundance in the face of scarcity in Mexico changed me. They challenged me to be grateful for what I had. They inspired me to be more generous. And they spoke to me of my humble place in this world, as I, a stranger in a distant land, was welcomed with extravagant hospitality. But that wasn’t the first time I was welcomed as a stranger. Through Christ, God welcomed me into His heavenly family (Galatians 4:5), lavishing me with grace and providing for my every need. When did you last ponder the extravagant hospitality of God? The last time you reflected upon being the recipient of abundant grace? God’s hospitality gives us new eyes to see. You crave less and give more, complain less and praise more. You notice and share abundance. In God’s Kingdom, there’s no need for a scarcity mindset because He has room and resources enough for everyone. He promises to satisfy every thirst and fulfill every longing. Take a moment to notice abundance and provision in your life, and ask where you need to share it, knowing that He who didn’t spare His own Son graciously gives us all things (Romans 8:32). 16
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16 REV. JUAN SARMIENTO, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR MISSION FOR THE OUTREACH FOUNDATION
HE HAS SHOWN STRENGTH WITH HIS ARM; HE HAS SCATTERED THE PROUD IN THE THOUGHTS OF THEIR HEARTS. HE HAS BROUGHT DOWN THE POWERFUL FROM THEIR THRONES, AND LIFTED UP THE LOWLY…. —LUKE 1:51–52 (NRSV)
A crowd of people—mostly Muslims—had gathered to celebrate in the ancient medina quarter of a North African town. This, however, was a different kind of party. Several children with physical disabilities were present. In that society, as in so many others, differently-abled people are deemed unfit to participate in public gatherings or even be in the presence of those considered “important.” They’re seen as cursed and unworthy of those privileges. But this day was different. The community was inaugurating the town’s first therapy center for children. Maria*, a Latin American woman, was the unlikely honoree. Her role had been crucial to bring together the people and funds for the project. “We need more of these centers,” a town official told the crowd. He asked Maria how she did it and where the funding had come from. “I can tell you how it all got started,” Maria explained in her broken Arabic. “It began with us crying together.” As grateful tears rolled down her face, she added, “If we want to see more of these centers, we need to recognize before each other and God the huge need that we have.” Most of the resources had come from the town itself. Only a fraction was given by her personal financial supporters. As the community became aware of their helplessness, God transformed the hearts of people to respond in concrete ways. When God makes all things new, established patterns are challenged. The powerful recognize their vulnerability while the powerless discover their unrealized worth. The Gospel calls us to both humility and confidence, to recognize real needs and embrace the life that comes from God. In Christ’s suffering and death, as well as His resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit, we find drastically different ways of seeing ourselves and relating to one another. Would you pray for the Good News of God’s Kingdom to transform both the powerful and lowly among us? Think of your own life. In which areas do you need to become more vulnerable? Where do you need to grow in confidence, believing what God says about you is true? *not her real name
MONDAY, DECEMBER 17 DR. URGESSA BIRU, DIRECTOR OF LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY ETHIOPIA
FOR TO US A CHILD IS BORN, TO US A SON IS GIVEN; AND THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON HIS SHOULDER, AND HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE. OF THE INCREASE OF HIS GOVERNMENT AND OF PEACE THERE WILL BE NO END…. —ISAIAH 9:6–7 (ESV)
Isaiah lived and ministered during turbulent times in the history of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. As the Assyrian Empire advanced, threatening to overtake them, Isaiah predicted that their fear and despair would be replaced by joy and peace through the authority and leadership of a King called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Like Isaiah’s time, tragic events unfolding around the globe today can overtake us with feelings of hopelessness and despair. Isaiah’s revelation reminds us that complete and lasting peace is only possible through the righteous reign of a divine Messiah, known to us as Jesus Christ. When we acknowledge Jesus as our King, allowing Him to lead us, we learn that His government is like none we’ve ever known. His Kingdom is one of unending and ever-expanding peace. His leadership is expressed through sacrifice and humility. His justice is enfolded in mercy. We respond to His example by serving as bridge builders and peacemakers in our communities and nations, inviting others into reconciliation and peace with God and one another. As ambassadors for this King, we’re called to faithfully carry on Isaiah’s ministry of prophetic proclamation. So many people still don’t know the Good News of God’s Kingdom of peace and are held captive by despair and fear. As we look to Christ’s second coming with hope, we must declare to the world that the peace we all so desperately desire is found in Him alone. Take time today to reflect on lyrics from the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Make it your prayer on behalf of all who are waiting for Emmanuel—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. O come, Desire of nations, bind / All peoples in one heart and mind / Bid envy, strife, and discord cease / Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace / Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel / Shall come to thee, O Israel 18
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18 NANCY VON SCHIMMELMANN, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP MISSION ADVOCATE
GOD GIVES THE DESOLATE A HOME TO LIVE IN; HE LEADS OUT THE PRISONERS TO PROSPERITY…. —PSALM 68:6A (NRSV)
Mary graciously embraced the Lord’s calling to an unheard-of task. Her joyful Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) shows her maturity and depth of faith. But as she likely met with skepticism from her family and Joseph’s, and when her wedding became a hasty, quiet affair—fodder for gossip—the reality of obedience must have been painful. The trip to Bethlehem was arduous for anyone, even more so for a woman in late-term pregnancy. Mary and Joseph traveled approximately 80 miles on rough paths over hills and through dangerous forests. It was there in Bethlehem, relegated to a stable, far from familiar, comforting people and places, that Mary gave birth to her first child, a son, and called Him Jesus. The upheaval continued. She and Joseph had to flee from Bethlehem to save their son from King Herod’s paranoia. No place under his rule was safe, so they escaped to Egypt. Obedience to God caused the Holy Family to become refugees. Their circumstances were much like those of millions of people, before and since, who’ve fled natural disasters, famine, wars, ethnic cleansing and persecution. People who’ve lost their homes, communities and loved ones. People who’ve found themselves despairing and desolate. “God gives the desolate a home to live in,” or as another version puts it, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6 NIV). Our God, through that refugee child Jesus, reaches out to every lonely, misunderstood, desperate person and invites him or her to come home to a new kind of family. And He asks His adopted children to seek out other desolate souls and announce the Good News that they, too, are welcomed and have a place of belonging as God’s beloved children. Pray for the physically and spiritually desolate today—that God will bring them someone who can show them the way home to Him. Pay special attention to the marginalized people in your community you may have never noticed before. Make eye contact with them. Offer them a smile, a kind word, a helping hand and the dignity of being treated as God’s beloved child.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19 REV. LJ JAWORSKI, PASTOR OF MISSION FOR THIRD CHURCH, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
FOR IN HIM ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD WAS PLEASED TO DWELL, AND THROUGH HIM GOD WAS PLEASED TO RECONCILE TO HIMSELF ALL THINGS, WHETHER ON EARTH OR IN HEAVEN, BY MAKING PEACE THROUGH THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS. —COLOSSIANS 1:19–20 (NRSV)
In my work as a mission pastor, I have the privilege of hearing stories of the transformation that happens as God makes all things new around the world. Recently, a missionary serving in Central Asia shared the story of a young Muslim man with whom he’d shared the Gospel on several occasions. No matter how often they met or how passionate the missionary’s appeal, the young man remained unmoved by the Good News of Jesus. Several months later, the missionary was shocked to learn he’d become a Christian. The young man’s countenance and attitude had completely changed. He was filled with joy and overflowing with the love of God. What a transformation! The young man became an evangelist in his community, telling everyone he met about the goodness of God through Jesus Christ. Despite opposition, danger, persecution and even eventual martyrdom, his exuberance to share the Gospel—and the witness of his own transformed life—made a lasting impact. This young man’s story reminds me that through Christ, broken things are made whole. When God’s Kingdom comes in all its fullness, “people and things, animals and atoms, get properly fixed and fit together” (Colossians 1:20 MSG). Jesus’ sacrifice redeems every effect of the fall, healing every form of brokenness as we are reconciled to God. And this reconciliation is not just between humans and God. All of creation—people, animals, plants, earth, sky, sea—will one day be restored to shalom, brought back together in God’s perfect intention for the world. As we await the future reality of creation fully restored, we’re invited to join Jesus’ reconciling work here and now. We witness transformation from brokenness to wholeness, from apathy to joy. Where have you seen the Gospel bring new life? How do you need God to restore your hope for people and places still waiting to experience His grace? 21
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20 REV. DAN MCNERNEY, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
SO HE CAME AND PROCLAIMED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR OFF AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; FOR THROUGH HIM BOTH OF US HAVE ACCESS IN ONE SPIRIT TO THE FATHER. SO THEN YOU ARE NO LONGER STRANGERS AND ALIENS, BUT…MEMBERS OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD…. —EPHESIANS 2:17–19 (NRSV)
When Jesus was born, angels heralded the announcement that God was doing something new: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11 NRSV). Some Jews gladly followed Jesus as their Messiah. Remembering God’s promise to Abraham—that his descendants would be made into a great nation, through which all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:2–3)—they put their hope for its fulfillment in Jesus. Others vehemently opposed Him. They held firmly to their position as God’s chosen people and rejected Jesus’ claims about a Kingdom that would include everyone: rich and poor, slave and free, Jew and Gentile. Following Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles wrestled with whom to include in the growing body of believers. Through Jesus, God’s Kingdom had come near to the Jews. But was His promised redemption also meant for others? The Holy Spirit guided them through revelation, observation, dreams and debate, and they eventually understood that God’s grace through Christ gave all people, regardless of their background, equal access to the same spiritual family. There are numerous parallels between what took place in the 1st century between Jews and Gentiles and what’s taking place today between Christians and Muslims. The Holy Spirit is drawing Muslims across the world to faith in Jesus in unprecedented numbers. After centuries of animosity between people of these two faiths, God’s grace is breaking down the barriers that once separated us from each other. Jesus’ sacrifice tore down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14 ESV) and makes us into one community. Because we now have equal access to God, we no longer see one another as strangers or enemies. Walls become bridges and separations become connections, allowing us to welcome those who were once far off from the Good News. Which walls are you still attempting to construct or keep up? What would change if you truly believed God removed the hostility of sin and learned to see others—particularly those from other backgrounds—as family? 22
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21 APRIL MCALLISTER, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP SUMMER 2018 INTERN
BUT SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE, WE MUST GROW UP IN EVERY WAY INTO HIM WHO IS THE HEAD, INTO CHRIST, FROM WHOM THE WHOLE BODY, JOINED AND KNIT TOGETHER…PROMOTES THE BODY’S GROWTH IN BUILDING ITSELF UP IN LOVE. —EPHESIANS 4:15–16 (NRSV)
One afternoon, as I was doing some research for my internship and pondering the night’s dinner, I stumbled across this phrase: “The most delicious dishes are simmered slowly, allowing the complexity of the flavors to sink in.” As I thought about the meaning of the phrase, I realized the simmering of a delicious meal is a slow and gentle process that allows food to maintain its structure without falling apart. As the complexity of the ingredients join together, they create a depth of flavor that can’t be hastily prepared. Each layer and various tastes meld together, creating a rich, satisfying whole. The Body of Christ is like that. During my summer internship, I worked with ministry leaders and local organizations, learning from different models and strategies to help people discover their unique callings to serve in God’s Kingdom. Those partnerships revealed how unity and collaboration replace judgment and competition, allowing us to see the value and beauty of the varied ways Christ calls His people to serve Him. In Ephesians 4:15–16, Paul reminds us how we’re all part of the same body, joined together by every ligament to promote communal growth. Each member, established in Christ’s love, matures us. The building of our faith—and the Body of Christ—is a steady and tender process. Mutual concern, support and love enrich the Church through the particular gifts each member contributes to the full expression of Kingdom community. Paul calls us as faithful followers of Jesus to celebrate the uniqueness (or flavor) of one another. Like a complex, nourishing meal, God combines our unique backgrounds and gifts to create a richer, stronger Church. How are you celebrating the varied ways God’s grace knits us together as Kingdom coworkers while He makes all things new in your community? Who can you invite to gather around your table and share a meal?
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22 HANNAH TEAGUE, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP CREATIVE DIRECTOR
THEY SHALL BEAT THEIR SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES, AND THEIR SPEARS INTO PRUNING HOOKS…NEITHER SHALL THEY LEARN WAR ANY MORE; BUT THEY SHALL ALL SIT UNDER THEIR OWN VINES AND UNDER THEIR OWN FIG TREES, AND NO ONE SHALL MAKE THEM AFRAID…. —MICAH 4:3B–4 (NRSV)
Micah 4:1–5 paints the picture of a flourishing world, free from war, want or fear. Weapons are transformed to dig up neglected soil and cultivate life. People once devoted to military strategy rest in the shade of their fruit trees. They break down defenses and enjoy the beauty of a renewed land, healed from the ravages of conflict. While this ultimate restoration still lies ahead, God calls us to active participation in the peace and prosperity of our neighborhoods, communities, cities and nations now (Jeremiah 29:7). Yet the question posed to Jesus in Luke 10:29 persists: “Who is my neighbor?” To whom do we owe our advocacy and compassion? Faced with the world’s pervasive brokenness, are we justified in our concern for priorities that primarily impact ourselves? Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37) illustrates that our responsibility isn’t determined by proximity, country of origin, ethnicity or faith. We’re called to see everyone we encounter as neighbors, convinced of their innate worth and our intimate connection as God’s image bearers and co-stewards of creation. Seeing the world as our neighbor changes everything. It compels us to cross streets and ideological divides, tend old wounds, listen and speak up. We stand beside people facing injustice, amplify unheard voices, sacrifice our privilege and find common ground. We care for the earth and honor those with whom we share it. We open our doors to sojourners longing for home. By learning to see our neighbors, we become people who reshape weapons of war into tools for planting and building. We disarm to welcome the realities of God’s Kingdom. We give ourselves to the wholeness and flourishing of our communities and celebrate new life. Ask God to help you dream of a world marked by farming and feasting. Can you allow Him to stretch the boundaries of your imagination and envision a future in which your neighbors find rest from violence and exploitation? What can you lay aside or take up to help them thrive? 24
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23 JENNY ROSE WILSON, NURSE MIDWIFE
AFTER THIS I LOOKED, AND BEHOLD, A GREAT MULTITUDE THAT NO ONE COULD NUMBER, FROM EVERY NATION, FROM ALL TRIBES AND PEOPLES AND LANGUAGES, STANDING BEFORE THE THRONE AND BEFORE THE LAMB…CRYING OUT WITH A LOUD VOICE, “SALVATION BELONGS TO OUR GOD WHO SITS ON THE THRONE, AND TO THE LAMB!” —REVELATION 7:9–10 (ESV)
I’ve long been captivated by the book of Revelation’s visions of worship—rich arrays of color, sound, language, rhythm and dance from every culture. Glorious! As I reflect on today’s passage, a startling question arises: Who is it difficult to imagine being a part of that scene? I think of a friend who’s combating human trafficking by reaching out to the traffickers themselves with the love of Jesus. Another friend works with past and present offenders in the US prison system, rehabilitating them and offering hope for a new life. Yet another friend advocates for children with albinism in East Africa, asking, What if witch doctors—who maim and sometimes kill these children for the high market value of their body parts’ supposed supernatural power—were redeemed to become God’s agents of change? These friends challenge me to consider new realities of the Gospel’s power. And they make me feel a strange mix of discomfort, intrigue and hope. I wonder how much more of God’s expansive heart there is for me to comprehend. Revelation 7 goes on to describe why the multitude gathered around the throne of God worships with such unified abandon: they’ve been made clean through the sacrifice of Jesus; He’s become their shelter; they’re no longer hungry, thirsty or tortured by the heat of the sun; they’ve been led to springs of living water by the Lamb who has become their Shepherd; He has wiped away every tear (Revelation 7:13–17). God generously invites all people to partake of these promises— regardless of their ethnic background, material success or sinful actions. He desires to make all things new for everyone, restoring each life to dignity and value as His beloved, image-bearing child. Ask God to show you the people you might not expect when you imagine the celebration described in today’s passage. Thank Him for sending Jesus to redeem innocent captives, guilty prisoners, enemies and strangers alike. Ask Him to captivate you afresh with the breadth of His grace, that you may live in it fully and offer it freely to a broken world. 25
MONDAY, DECEMBER 24 REV. DR. KRISTIN HUFFMAN, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
AND THE ANGEL SAID TO THEM, “FEAR NOT, FOR BEHOLD, I BRING YOU GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY THAT WILL BE FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.” —LUKE 2:10 (ESV)
Why do we often lose our wonder as we grow up? My granddaughter, Cora, just turned two. I love watching her discover new things—shapes that match, sweet and sour tastes, words, dances and twirls. Surprises and changes of direction. In his book, Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yaconelli encourages readers to rediscover childlike wonder in their relationship with Jesus: “I want a lifetime of holy moments.…I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk and danger.…I want to be with Jesus, not knowing whether to cry or laugh.” A group of shepherds experienced such holy wonder one unexpected night. It had been an ordinary evening for them in the pastures outside Bethlehem—watching their flocks, sharing stories, gazing at the night sky. Into this seemingly mundane moment, an angel suddenly appeared, enveloping them in the bright light of God’s glory: “Fear not, for behold…” (Luke 2:10 ESV). This astonishing encounter changed their lives. Hope was kindled as they heard that Israel’s long-awaited Messiah was born for them— shepherds without power and privilege—and for all people. After finding Jesus just as the angel said, they went to share the Good News with others—“And all who heard it wondered…” (Luke 2:18 ESV). Many still need to hear about God’s extravagant love through the gift of Jesus. The news that He came not only to give us an eternal future, but redemption, transformation and fullness of life here and now—in all places, among all peoples, regardless of their status. Since that night when the sky shone with heaven’s glory and angels proclaimed peace to a weary world, echoes of the story continue. As you hear its familiar words, perhaps at a Christmas Eve service tonight, ask God to show you how to share the story with others. Ask Him to recapture your sense of wonder at the miracle of Christmas: Jesus’ arrival that brought Good News of great joy for all people. 26
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25 TARA CHASE, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
AND HE WHO WAS SEATED ON THE THRONE SAID, “BEHOLD, I AM MAKING ALL THINGS NEW.” ALSO HE SAID, “WRITE THIS DOWN, FOR THESE WORDS ARE TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE.” —REVELATION 21:5 (ESV)
And so we come to the end of our Advent journey. As we welcome the Christ Child into our world, we welcome Emmanuel, the God who has been with us all along. We rejoice that every hope and fear held captive in our longing hearts finds resounding resolution in the one who is making all things new. And yet, our waiting isn’t over. We celebrate God’s Kingdom drawing near even as we experience a present reality that feels far from complete—hearts are still broken; creation still groans; injustice, violence, sorrow and fear continue to wreak havoc on every nation, tribe, people and language. God speaks to us as He spoke to John in Revelation 21:5, as if from a dream, calling back to us from the certain future and finality of His perfect Kingdom and assuring us in these imperfect times. “See, your King! The one seated on the throne, the one with authority, the one who is trustworthy and true! Behold Me and believe Me when I say, ‘I am making all things new!’” Like John, we strain—and train—our dreaming eyes to awaken to the reality of all that God has promised. Our hope is renewed and our faith restored as we begin to comprehend that all will be well one day. Though the world in its present state is full of trouble, we take heart because Christ, our King, has overcome the world (John 16:33). And here, we enter into another kind of Advent, a journey between the now-and-not-yet of God’s Kingdom. Here we are called to action as agents of God’s redeeming, restoring, Kingdom-finishing work in the world. It’s our turn to call out to a world that is waiting: Behold, your King has come, and He is making all things new. Take heart, fear not, all will be well. Take some time today to go for a walk or drive around your neighborhood, and as you go, speak prayers of blessing, hope and encouragement: Joy to you, world, for the Lord has come. Joy to you, for all will be well. Receive your King, and be at peace. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
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Our 2018 devotional, Behold, was born from our prayer to recognize signs of God’s Kingdom coming among the world’s least-reached peoples and...
Published on Nov 19, 2018
Our 2018 devotional, Behold, was born from our prayer to recognize signs of God’s Kingdom coming among the world’s least-reached peoples and...