Morning Meditation

Joy for the Broken (Advent Week Three)

Good News of Great Joy. An Advent Devotion by Leslie Ann Jones. #Verses #Scripture #Quotes #LAJQuotes #LAJScripture #Advent #Christmas

Truth: I'm having a hard time with joy today. I've got a cold (again), it's a dreary day outside, and every time I login to facebook, I see a prayer request for another bad situation. 

Lives lost too soon.

Families left behind.

Wildfires running rampant.

Inoperable brain tumors.

Brilliant minds falling to dementia.

Marriages torn by divorce.

Children left fatherless.

Friends losing jobs.

And that's just what's happening in the lives of people that I know personally. In the rest of the world, things are far worse. War. Churches being bombed. Children buried under rubble. Civilians being executed.

The bad news is relentless. And in the face of such an overwhelming flood, it's nearly impossible to keep your head above water. Another wave is bound to come crashing down soon.

But it's into this fray that Christmas comes. And that, dear friends, is where our hope and joy are found. The promise of the gospel is not that we would never know suffering or feel pain but that he has seen our suffering and known our pain, and he has entered into it with us. The wonder of Christmas is that God Almighty came down. When we cried out for help, he came running.

Jesus is the joy of our salvation. He's our rescuer sent from heaven. He's our help in times of deepest need. He's the promise of aid on the horizon. When your current circumstances obscure joy, remember this: Christ has come. Christ has risen. And Christ will come again. 

When that time comes, he will wipe away every tear from every eye. There will be no more sorrow, no more grief, no more pain. No more sickness or death. We will be with God, and in his presence, no darkness can dwell.

Though the sorrow may last for a night, joy comes in the morning. Morning is coming, sweet friends. And that's good news of great joy, indeed.

Until next time, grace and peace.


(Verse  Four)

O holy child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel.

— Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

Hope in the Darkness (Advent Week One)

This is the first of a 4-part Advent series posted each week before Christmas. Each post corresponds with the free Family Advent Wreath Devotional, available for download in the LAJ Shop.

Light Has Dawned. Devotions and readings for Advent from Leslie Ann Jones. #LAJQuotes #Scripture #LAJVerses #Advent #Christmas

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably noticed that the world has gone a bit crazy over the past few weeks. I thought for sure that things would get better after the election, but it turns out that I was wrong. It could get worse. And it has.

Those with her were convinced that she was the answer to all our problems. Those with him were hanging on the promise that he would make America great again. And when the results rolled in, half the country grieved while the other half exulted. 

It's never been more obvious that we are a people looking for a savior. It seems that all our hopes and dreams were pinned on the one we thought would save us all, but no matter how much power the president of the good ole U.S. of A. wields, it's not nearly enough for that. Only Jesus can save.

The world is a dark place these days, y'all, but it is not so dark that the light of Christ can't pierce it. Jesus called himself the Light of the World, and it is his light that we cling to when the darkness presses close.

In moments when darkness lays heavy and thick upon us, even the tiniest flicker of light can give us the hope we need to carry on, but thanks be to God that the light of Christ is not a flickering candle in the wind. It's the steadfast and sure glow of a lighthouse warning us of danger and guiding us to safe harbor. 

The hope of Advent is the promise that Christ has come and that he's coming again. It's not wishful thinking. It's not an empty promise. It's a certainty—a forgone conclusion based on the rock solid ground of God's faithfulness. His word promises that something unimaginably better lies ahead for those who place their trust in him. And because his word is based on his character, we can rest assured that it's trustworthy indeed.

He will not leave us or forsake us. Though the world is quite dark, he has not left us stranded. He came into this dark and dreary world to save sinners, and he's coming back someday to take us home. Now that's something to look forward to.

Amen and amen.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Morning Meditation: Our God is Able

Our church has been going through the book of Daniel on Sunday mornings. This week, Dr. Cooper preached on Daniel 3, and it's been on my mind ever since. It's one of those stories that those of us who were raised in the church have heard 100 times. You know it. Let me set the scene.

Israel has been sacked by the Babylonians, and the people have been dragged away from their homes and brought to Babylon, where they can be kept under the king's thumb. It's not a good time for the people of Israel. They've lost their homes, their land, and their temple, and the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, seems hell-bent on ripping away their faith as well.

In chapter 3, he has an enormous golden statue constructed and declares that everyone, even the freshly imported Jews, is required to bow before it. Anyone who refused would be put to death. Well. That made things a little difficult for the Jews. Worshiping idols is clearly against The Rules (aka the Ten Commandments) that God gave Moses

So the Jews had a choice. They could either bow down to the statue and live, or they could refuse and die. Enter Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Jewish youths who had already caused the king a bit of trouble. They refused to bow down. And for their insolence, the king sentenced them to death by fire. But before he had them tossed into the blazing furnace, he asked them who could possibly save them from their fiery fate.

And their answer. Y'all. It stops me in my tracks. Every. Single. Time. Standing before a king who had just ordered their death, the three boys answered: 

O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)

Did you catch that? Faced with certain death, their faith in God was unwavering. They declared that He is able to rescue his people from the most dire of situations, but even if he does not, he is still a God who is worth believing in. 

God is able. Period. He is always able to rescue his people from the plights of the world. The hard part to swallow is that sometimes he chooses not to. Or at least, that's what it seems like. The cancer gets worse, despite our fervent prayers for healing. The marriage falls apart, despite our desperate cries for reconciliation. The miscarriages keep coming, despite our pleas to the contrary. 

And those problems, as serious as they are, are nothing compared to what our brothers and sisters are facing in the Middle East. ISIS continues to target believers and execute them for their refusal to stand down. Being a Christian in Syria is a death sentence. Literally. It's almost as if nothing has changed since Daniel's day.

And yet, God is still able. If there's one thing you cling to when you're facing the fire, let it be this: God is who he says he is. He will do what he says he will do. And his word promises deliverance for his people. We must be the kind of people who say, "My God can do anything. He is my deliverer. My very present help in trouble. My stronghold. My shield. My salvation. But even if he chooses not to act in this moment, I will still be faithful. I will still serve him. I will still believe." 

Because here's the thing. Sometimes God allows profound suffering because he has something greater in store. We don't have to look any further than the cross to know this is true. He isn't asking us to do anything He hasn't already done. He himself suffered. He himself died a brutal death, a death that was a necessary prequel to the Resurrection. Without the cross, there is no victory over death. There's no new life. There's no happy ending. There's no hope. 

So you see, God's story is bigger than ours. He knows what he's doing, even when we don't understand it. And he is mighty to save. Always. No matter the circumstances. He is able. How do I know that? Well, as it turns out, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren't alone in that fire. There was a fourth man in the furnace with them, and the three boys emerged unscathed.

That fourth man was Jesus. He was in the fire with those boys, and he's in the fire with us today. We may or may not emerge unscathed, but either way, we know that salvation has already come. Death no longer gets the last word because Jesus rose and conquered the grave. It has no hold on us who believe. And that's what gives us the confidence to stand before the world and refuse to bow down.

It's easy to say we believe these things outside the fire. To stand apart from the flames and declare our faith in God, but it's an altogether different thing to hold fast to that faith while the flames are licking at our toes. May we have the strength to stand firm when the flames flicker in the edges of our vision. And through it all, may the God of our salvation be glorified now and forever. Amen.

Until next time, grace and peace.