July 16, 2024

The story is told about a lady who called American Airlines and asked the reservation clerk, “How long does it take to get from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfort, Germany?” The clerk had to wait a moment for the information to come up on her computer screen, so she said, “Just a minute.” The caller responded, “Thanks very much,” and hung up! Most of the things that really matter in life do not happen in “just a minute.”

Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 3:1-9 that we are to remain patient with the Lord. His time table is very different from our own, especially in this fast paced world. Peter writes the following to us.

2 Peter 3:1–9 (NKJV): 3 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

People are quick to dismiss those things that do not happen immediately. In fact this will be proof positive that those things do not exist. In our illustration Germany is a real place you can fly to but it will definitely take more than a minute to arrive. The fact that God has not answered your prayer or changed things does not discount your prayer or prove that God does not care. It only means that His plans are different from your plans. God does not need to bend to us. We need to bend to Him and His plans for they are the best. Maybe we need to repent of our plans and begin seeking God’s plans. Today, what do you need to give to the Lord for a better plan?

Pastor Aaron Kruse

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July 15, 2024

In the movie with Robert Duvall called the Apostle, there is a scene where Duvall as a Texas preacher is on the run from the law. The scene is late at night and Duvall’s character is yelling at God in the attic of his mother’s house about the unfairness of life. He was on the run for someone else’s mistake that caused him to get mixed up and in a moment of heated emotion make a bad choice. 

As we look at Lamentations today we see a city in ruin and the prize lost to another civilization. Those who remain are either enslaved or sit in the ashes of poverty. This is the same group of people who were looking to the promised land and the future of being a privileged nation. Now they are on the list of just another conquered civilization.

Lamentations 1:1–3 (ESV): 

1 How lonely sits the city 

      that was full of people! 

      How like a widow has she become, 

      she who was great among the nations! 

      She who was a princess among the provinces 

      has become a slave. 

      2 She weeps bitterly in the night, 

      with tears on her cheeks; 

      among all her lovers 

      she has none to comfort her; 

      all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; 

      they have become her enemies. 

      3 Judah has gone into exile because of affliction 

      and hard servitude; 

      she dwells now among the nations, 

      but finds no resting place; 

      her pursuers have all overtaken her 

      in the midst of her distress.

Sometimes we sit in the unfairness of life believing that we are the only ones who are receiving unjust treatment. In these times we believe we are alone and defenseless. We can be mad at God, others, and maybe even ourselves. Yet Lamentations remind us that it is healthy to lament over our circumstances. The definition of lamenting is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. In this moment of lament we are reminded of the brokenness of the world we live in. If we sit in lament it should move us to remember our desperate need for a Savior. This is the beginning of the road of repentance to forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard to discover if we do not have a need for repentance and repentance only really comes from the grief of a broken situation in our life and not from a disappointment in being caught in something. 

I am always amazed in our flower garden when I see life blooming from a dead plant or from the ashes of some forgotten piece of soil. This is forgiveness. When we receive it from a place of lament, it brings life and it renews our souls. 

Pastor Aaron

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July 12, 2024

For those who have had a red-letter bible it can be quite startling to notice that so much of the book of Revelation is red. The Church has accepted that this book is a revelation from the ascended Jesus and therefore it has his authority. We can take encouragement from his promises and should take heed to his warnings:

3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

3: 14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:…15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

There are wonderful books filled with the “Promises of God.” There are fewer that are filled with the “Warnings of God.” Probably that is because they don’t sell as well. For new Christians shaking off their chains, the more promises they can get of new life, the better. But if we are mature and devoted followers, we need to read and learn and dig in on those warnings. As Jesus says, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Pastor Andy

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July 11, 2024

If the last two devotions seemed challenging, they reflect the intensity of Jesus’ words to the churches accurately. As we read the rest of the book of Revelation, we are reminded that this time will come to an end. Although we are reassured that Jesus will be victorious in the trials to come, we are still urged to repent and be faithful through it all. Over the centuries, that sense of immediacy has ebbed and flowed. Some even joke, “Come, Lord Jesus, but take your time.” The question, “How would you live if today was your last day?” Is not just interesting, it is necessary for a life of faith.

Rev 3:7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: …10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

In the song, “Live Like You Were Dying” a terminal cancer victim shares what he did about his impending end; “”I went skydiving. I went Rocky Mountain climbing. I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu. And I loved deeper. And I spoke sweeter. And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying. Someday I hope you get the chance To live like you were dying.” I’ll admit I love the song and some of the sentiments. But in reality, this is not the answer of a faithful person. The absolute and only thing we can answer to the question “How do you live like you were dying?” is “By doing God’s Will.” And if that is what we would say with 24 hours to go, how can it become our answer for the way we are to live everyday until he comes?

Pastor Andy

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July 10, 2024

The idea of truth has faced many challenges in our lifetimes, even in the arena of faith. For most of Christian history, truth was found in a series of doctrines derived from scripture and experience taught by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. With the Renaissance and later Reformation, the idea that the Roman Catholic Church had the sole claim to truth was challenged. In our modern era, we can see that people firmly believe in many different “truths” based only on their personal convictions. What happens when the foundation of truth experiences such an earthquake?

Rev 2:18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: You tolerate that woman

Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

When we do not have a firm foundation of truth, we become vulnerable to all manner of new and exciting “truths.” Have we accepted the “truth” that we don’t need to go to church to be Christian? Have we accepted the “truth” that our moral life is “good enough” or that our commitment to God’s will is “above average?” Have we accepted the “truths” that worshipping only the Lord, loving our neighbor and enemies, caring for those in need, giving sacrificially and serving faithfully are optional? The scariest truth of all is when we think that being saved is easy when it cost him his life. We can debate doctrines, but one thing is not up for debate, Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Pastor Andy

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July 9, 2024

Imagine half-way through one of our worship services a group of men barged in and began to harass the pastors and worshippers. Their sole motivation is to disrupt our service and give us a warning not to spread our faith in their community. It is hard to picture this in our country which has offered so much freedom for people to worship to worship in peace. But this is exactly what happened to the church Advent sponsors in Bangladesh. Neighboring Muslims attacked their church and our mission pastor was injured. John writes to those in similar situations of persecution.

Rev. 2:8 “To the church in Smyrna write….Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Rev. 2:12 “To the church in Pergammon write…you did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.”

I often wonder if we would be more faithful if it was harder to be a Christian in this country. Or would persecution and hardship cause us to turn away? The next time we feel like sleeping in instead of worshipping, skipping our offering, ignoring the needs of the church for volunteers, or leaving the Bible unopened and the TV on, it might be worth considering how others are so committed to their faith that they are willing to suffer for it. 

Pastor Andy

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July 8, 2024

Wouldn’t it be exciting to have a letter written directly from Jesus to our church? Wouldn’t it be so encouraging, so helpful, so…scary? After all, Jesus is the Truth and so it is quite likely he would tell us the truth in all of its dimensions. Did you know that we do have seven letters from the Risen Jesus to seven churches written in the First Century? This week, I encourage you to read those letters in the second and third chapters of Revelation as I summarize their various messages.

Rev. 2:1 “To the church in Ephesus write:…2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.

It is possible to be faithful as a church (and as Christians) yet have lost the passion that was so powerful in the beginning. How do we return to that love? First, we need to take the praise Jesus gives those who persevere. He knows and appreciates the efforts we make as only he can! Second, we can remember that in the midst of all that hard work, he was always with us and always will be. He ends this letter with a great promise, “To all who overcome, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life!”

Pastor Andy

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July 5, 2024

The final verse of Psalm 63 is a continuation of the prior thought.  David has truly learned that without God, his life is as desolate as the desert.  When we cling to the Lord and put ourselves in the shadow of his wings, we can sing for joy.  In some ways it is so much easier to think that we have it all under control and that we are the masters of our own destiny.  David certainly fell into that trap, but he escaped the desert by allowing the Lord to uphold him.

It is funny what God puts in our paths.  I first was attracted to a particular musical setting of this Psalm, then I lost my Dad and this was the piece that popped out of my heart when I chose the music for his funeral.  A few years later, I lost a job and really felt alone and beaten.  This prayer called to me again.  Then there was COVID and the lockdowns: no Palm Sunday, no Holy Week, and no Easter celebrations, a spiritual desert, and there was my old friend Psalm 63 to comfort me. 

I love the Book of Psalms.  It is such a blessing to know that when I don’t have the words to pray, the Psalms are there; a rich source of prayer for every human emotion and experience.  

Thank you for working through Psalm 63 with me this week.  This meditation helped me to do a mini reset and reflect on where I am today in my journey towards a deeper relationship with the Lord.  I hope in some small way, for those who might be their own desert you are encouraged to seek The Way, The Truth, The Power and The Glory that comes from God alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

Cecilia Carroll
Advent Square Director
Humble Servant and Handmaid of the Lord

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July 4, 2024

In a dry and waterless place, David looks inward and upward.  He finally realizes that when he ties his life to God he prospers.  He recognizes all the blessings God bestowed upon him and living within the Lord’s covenant is better than life itself.  David is moving towards reconciliation with God.  This is when the poet and the musician in David takes over.  He can’t help but lift his hands and rejoice.  

I too rejoiced because I was able to reconnect with my ministry, and by working through Psalm 63, I was able to start to reconnect in a deeply personal way with our Lord.

The Psalms have survived thousands of years as one of the vehicles by which the faithful can connect to the divine.   Psalms 63 in particular calls us to continually seek the Lord; to not become complacent in our prayer life; to recognize that if God is our priority and we consciously seek to place him in our lives, we will have satisfying and full lives despite the challenges, hardships, hurts and disappointments that this life can sometimes bring.

Be a seeker!

Cecilia Carroll
Advent Square Director Humble Servant and Handmaid of the Lord

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July 3, 2024

Alone, cold and hungry David remembers the “good times.”  The times he sensed God’s active presence in his life; the times he trusted totally in the Lord and not only in his skills and talents.  I imagine it was a very humbling experience for David, who defeated Goliath to realize he could not do it all on his own.

We Americans are programed to continually seek the success and wealth of the world.  We even call it “The American Dream.”  It is hard to recognize that we need help and even harder to ask for it.  I suppose I should not be so bold to speak for all “Americans” or even all of you reading this devotion.  I find it hard to ask for help.  I find it hard to give up control.  I’m still not sure what that expression “Give it up to God” really means much less how to do it.  

David was driven into the desert by his behavior.  I was driven into the desert by my complacency.  What drives you into the desert?  No matter what got us there, God is always at work.  Sometimes he is waiting for us to cooperate with Him so we can leave our exile and return to Him.

To God be All Glory and Praise!   

Cecilia Carroll
Advent Square Director
Humble Servant and Handmaid of the Lord


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