Advent Series, Parts 1-5

๐“๐ก๐ž ๐€๐๐ฏ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐‡๐จ๐ฉ๐ž

Walking through a dark and evil world can leave us with deep pain and an abundance of tears. We lose, and we grieve. We wander, and we mourn. We look down, and then we look in. We forget about the light. We find ourselves in a state of hopelessness.

But Isaiah 50:10 says, โ€œWho walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.โ€* So, if we look up to see the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, shining all around us, that hope will raise us up. The truth of His hope will enable us to keep moving forward. His power will enable us to walk and love again. Joy will flood the empty spaces of our beings. The pain will be touched by supernatural comfort. The mourning heart will sing again.

Just as the sun always shines even though we canโ€™t see it, Godโ€™s hands and heart are outstretched for us to see by faith. God is good, sovereign, and omnipotent. He makes a way out of no way. He provides for every need. He keeps every promise.

The first week of the Advent season, we celebrate hope. Many waited for hope to come to the world, and it finally came. Its name was Jesus.

Jesus gave His life on the cross to give eternal hope through salvation. What a precious gift! And then, He left for a while to prepare a place for those who would believe in Him. And one day, Hope will return to the world. He will come again. He will take all who believe to their eternal home. Have you accepted His gift of hope? Are you ready for His second advent?

This is the truth of hope. Hope has come. And Hope is coming back.

~~~~~

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 NKJV

~~~~~

*Taken from Isaiah 50:10 NKJV

ยฉText and photo Francee Strain, November 29, 2020

๐“๐ก๐ž ๐€๐๐ฏ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐๐ž๐š๐œ๐ž–๐‘๐ž๐š๐๐ข๐ง๐  ๐Ÿ

Do you have peace? Do you want peace? Do you believe peace is possible, especially in the day and age in which we live? I fully believe it is possible. I have experienced it for myself.

Peace can come to us the moment we open our eyes and take in the light of day. We can breathe in the peace of God because He has come to dwell with us. Just over 2000 years ago, God sent His only son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the World. And one of the names and characteristics Jesus has is that He is the Prince of Peace. He rules it. He is the source of it. It is His to give.

I have asked Jesus to be a part of my life, and His presence results in peace. He calms storms of all kinds. He removes the sting of death. He does miracles. He cleanses me from every sin. He has restored my soul and made it acceptable in the sight of God. I never have to worry about walking alone because He has said He will never leave me nor forsake me. I donโ€™t have to worry about what will happen when I die because He has already assured me that since I gave myself to Him, I can never be plucked from His hand. I do not have to worry about decision making because He gives wisdom to those who ask for it. I do not have to worry about my needs being met because He is the provider and sustainer. I do not have to toss and turn at night but instead can sleep in peace because He is omnipotent and will care for those who are His own.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the LORD with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding. If we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He is going to direct our paths. I could go on and on with example after example of the things I can know for certain and how this knowledge brings peace. You can know these things, too. It simply starts with you coming to the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, and giving your life to Him.

This is how peace comes.

ยฉText and photo Francee Strain, December 6, 2020

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๐“๐ก๐ž ๐€๐๐ฏ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐๐ž๐š๐œ๐ž–๐‘๐ž๐š๐๐ข๐ง๐  ๐Ÿฎ

We need peace. Peace in our world. Peace in our homes. Peace in our own hearts. We long for peace. We yearn for peace.

When troubles mount, we can feel overwhelmed. Helpless. Hopeless. Sometimes, we want to bury our heads under the covers. Other times, we want to run away. But these actions are not what will solve the problems. These things are not what will fill us with lasting peace. Lasting peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace, the One who is Everlasting: Jesus. His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). Inviting Him into the situation is what will bring peace. Holding Him in our hearts will find Him holding us.(1)

He comes in the storm with power and authority. Creator of all. Ruler of all. Sustainer of all. With a word, He can cause the storm to cease. With a word, He can bring great calm. With a word, He can speak peace. In His presence, there is peace. As the winds of life howl and the storms rage, He holds usโ€“safely and securely in His almighty hands. As the winds drive the pounding rain, and our hearts pound in fear, He comes. Listen to the power of His words, โ€œPeace. Be stillโ€ (Mark 4:39 KJV).

Over and encircling, through and beneath, His presence pervades; and there is peace. This is our God. The God above all gods. Let us never be shaken. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6โ€“7 NKJV).

During this time of upheaval, I want to encourage you. You can find hope. You can know peace. Because…you are loved. God has loved you with an everlasting love, and with lovingkindness He is drawing you to Himself. Though the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, He is the Creator and Ruler of all.(2)

Place your hand in the hand of the One who can hold you securely. Place your heart in the hands of the One who gave His very life to save you. Look up to where there is help. Look up to where there is redemption. Look up into the very face of God.(3)

This is how peace comes.

_________________________________

(1) Excerpt from blog post โ€œIn the Name of Peace,โ€ Francee Strain, May 30, 2020

(2) Excerpt from blog post โ€œHe Comes in the Storm,โ€ Francee Strain, May 3, 2020

(3) Excerpt from blog post โ€œPeace to You,โ€ Francee Strain, March 21, 2020

ยฉText and photo Francee Strain, December 10, 2020

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๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—”๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—Ÿ๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ

What is love?

We would likely define this word by mentioning many aspects, perhaps things like having close bonds with others, giving and receiving affection, being connected in a family, experiencing loyalty and faithfulness, hearing or speaking words of affirmation, giving and receiving gifts, serving others, or being the recipients of acts of kindness. Yet although we might have all these varied ideas in mind, there is a common threadโ€”love is something demonstrated in deeds. Love is action.

Since before time began, love was active and awaiting us, and then love came near. Love took action. But where did love come from, and why did it come near?

Love came near because God came near. God is the source of love. He is love. He has given the very essence of Himself in an offering to us. This offering is actually what we are focusing on right now during this season of adventโ€”He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life, and He did this because He loved the world (see John 3:16).

Since before time began, God had a plan to gift us with His love. And when the time was just right, the gift arrived: Jesus was born to be the Savior of the world to show us the love of God the Father. Jesus was a representation of the love and an act of that love. He gave up the position of honor He held as King of kings and humbled Himself to walk as a man. He gave up the riches of the entire universe to be laid in a manger and give everything to us. He gave up the comforts of having and doing anything He pleased, going anywhere He wanted at any time, to come to this earth and experience the life we experience, walking in obedience to Godโ€™s will and Godโ€™s timing. This is the gift of love we celebrate at Christmas.

But the love did not stop there. Jesus did not remain a baby in the manger. He grew into a man who continued to act in love. He travelled and spoke to thousands, sharing with them about the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. He healed and fed. Taught and visited. Comforted the grieving and raised the dead. All this, He gave. And He gave even more, things that we find difficult to give: He loved His enemies. He prayed for those who despitefully used and persecuted Him. He gave His time and energy and service to those who gave nothing back. He loved the unlovely that others avoided and scorned. He sacrificed His very life for us. All so that we could know His love and know it forever.

This is how love comes. God took action. He has loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with loving kindness. He has given us the gifts of His Son, His Word, His promises, His salvation, and His very presence. Do we see it? Do we recognize it? Have we responded to it? Have we given Him our hearts and our love in return? Has there been an advent of love from us?

You can receive His gift today and return the gift of your heart to Him. This is how love comes.

ยฉText and photo Francee Strain, December 12, 2020

*****************

๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—”๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—๐—ผ๐˜†

Joy. It is a word I am seeing in quite a few places right now. It is mentioned on Christmas shirts and socks, Christmas cards and photo frames, ornaments and wall hangings, figurines and mugs, wrapping paper and gift bags, among a host of other things. But what is joy? What is the meaning of the word featured on so much Christmas merchandise and other items all throughout the year? Is there joy in all this โ€œstuffโ€? Is joy found in items? No, joy is not found in materialism. It is not found in a holiday, or a season, or a fashion, or a pretty thing. It is not even found in peopleโ€”as we all know, they can cause us pain. Joy, true joy, comes from the source of all joy. Joy is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the giver of joy.

Joy is both a noun and a verb. Joy can abide in our hearts, but we can also take action with it. We can access it, share it, give it, receive it, and keep it. It can influence our perspectives and be the foundation of our actions. Think about when a baby is bornโ€”smiles and laughter abound. Babies are even called bundles of joy. They are all packaged up in sweetness and wonder. And we are changed by what we see before us. Well, one night, the bundle of all bundles of joy was born. Jesus made His advent into the world. The Savior was here! He fulfilled the joy of those who had long awaited His coming. He filled hearts, and He inspired actions. There was an advent of joy!

Can you imagine the joy that resounded across the hillsides when the angel announced Jesusโ€™ birth and was then joined by the heavenly host praising and glorifying God and proclaiming peace and goodwill on earth? Can you imagine the quick and excited steps of the shepherds as they went to see the good news for themselves? Can you imagine the joy and excitement that inspired the magi to travel long and far to the place where the star marked the joy of the whole earth? And then, this child grew into a man who continued to bring joy to those who were willing to receive it. He gave sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, food to the hungry, attention to the outcast, healing to the sick, and life to the dead. And then He gave forgiveness to the sinners so they could experience eternal life and eternal joy at His right hand.

Thinking on these things brings me great joy because I know this Savior. He has come to live in my heart. His Spirit fills me with an abundance of joy. Even in the midst of deep sorrow, great pain, searing loss, and overwhelming troubles, joy remains. How can this be? It is possible because the joy I have does not come from the things of the world; the joy comes from Him and cannot be taken away or overcome.

So, even though it is raining on us now, and the day looks as dark as the night, His light is there, shining all around us. Will we have eyes to see it? ๐˜๐˜ฆ is the Light of the World. Will we have eyes to see ๐˜๐˜ช๐˜ฎ? He is the joy of every longing heart. He will never fail or disappoint us. He will never harm or abandon us. He will never move on to something else or somewhere else. Will we have hearts to experience Him? If we never take Him into our lives or walk in His ways, we will never experience true joy, only temporary happiness connected to the things of the world. The advent of true joy is connected to the advent of the hope, faith, peace, and love He gives through His very presence. And this true joy is deep and abiding. It gives us the ability to look beyond the now, to have strength, to be confident in the hope we have in Him and the love He has for us.

In His presence, there is fulness of joy.* This is how joy comes.

~~~~~

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.

The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Psalm 98:1โ€“4 (NKJV)

โ™ซ Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing. โ™ซ

~~~~~

*See Psalm 16:11.

Song lyrics taken from โ€œJoy to the Worldโ€ by Isaac Watts.

ยฉText and photo Francee Strain, December 20, 2020

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