Monthly Archives: November 2021

Advent: Prepare the Way (Luke 3:3-6)

And {John the Baptist} came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight. Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; And all flesh will see the salvation of God’” (Luke 3:3-6; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

A dirt road in Tibet that looks like it would benefit from some preparation. Photo by Tenace10, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

A new year begins on the church calendar. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season that culminates with Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation. However, Christians should not prepare for Christmas in the same way that the world does.

The world begins its version of “the Christmas season” with Black Friday. The focus is on sales, great deals, and buying presents: Commercialism is the name of the game. God calls us to preparation through repentance.

Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He did not offer great bargains, two for the price of one, or free shipping. His entire lifestyle rejected the things we value today. He wore a simple wardrobe, ate a simple (and rather repulsive) diet of locusts and honey, and preached a radical message of repentance. It was not a generic message like many preachers share today; he gave specific examples of how people should live, not leaving room for doubt.

When describing John the Baptist, Luke cited the prophet Isaiah: “Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight. Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; And all flesh will see the salvation of God.” The King was coming. The road had to be ready for His arrival. If you wanted to welcome the King, you prepared a safe road for his entourage. You would fill in the ditches and clear obstacles so that his horse could trot safely into town.

We still prepare roads like this. When we drive our cars, we do not want obstacles like garbage or other debris in the path. We expect the highway department to fill in the potholes.

Meadowbrook State Parkway on Long Island, NY. Trees line both sides of the road. Similar trees had to be cleared before the road could be built. Photo by Doug Kerr, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Most of our roads required thorough preparation before they could be paved. Here on Long Island, we have several major roads that are frequently flanked by trees. At one time, the trees also stood where cars now drive. Trees and other obstacles had to be removed before construction crews could pave the road.

Along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, there is a stretch where they could not remove all of the obstacles. Several mountains blocked the path. So, they blasted tunnels through the mountains to clear a path for cars to travel.

In Pennsylvania, they could not remove the mountains so they cleared tunnels through four of the mountains along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This tunnel goes through Tuscarora Mountain. Photo by Ben Schumin, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.

It all seems a little drastic when you think about it. People needed a road. It required thorough preparation. Ruthless removal of obstacles was a vital part of the preparation process.

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Christ. He came into the world 2000 years ago. For many readers of this article, He came into your life at some time in the past. Someday, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have no end” (The Nicene Creed). Advent and Christmas look back to His first coming into the world so we can more clearly look forward and prepare for that second coming.

Are we ready? Have we prepared a path for Him? Are there obstacles in our lives that block the path between our hearts and His Spirit? Are there potholes in our spiritual path? Are there twists and turns in our lives that need to be made straight?

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis added).

There may be sinful attitudes, actions, or habits in your life that are hindering your relationship with Christ. There may be encumbrances (other Bible translations say “weight,” “obstacle,” or something similar) that may be holding us back. They might not be bad in themselves, but they have become a hindrance to your walk with Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these to you in the coming weeks and months. Acknowledge them. Confess them to Him. Lay them down before Him and leave them at the foot of Jesus. Walk away and start anew on a clear path.

May the forthcoming year be a time of restoration as you walk on a newly cleared, restored, repaved, and straightened path in your journey with Jesus Christ.

What are some of the encumbrances you encounter in your walk with Christ? What steps can you take, or have you taken in the past, to clear a path to a closer walk with Jesus? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

“Love One Another” (John 13:34-35)

I dedicate this post to the memory of my mother, Rosemarie Lynch, who went to her eternal rest on November 6. Mom overcame many challenges in her life, but still found ways to be a blessing to others.

Photo by Wingchi Poon, under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Jesus told His disciples that the mark of a true disciple would be love for others. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”: not if you have great theology, preach to a lot of people, can quote the Bible in your sleep, listen to gospel music, etc. Love for other people, especially other Christians, proves our love for Jesus. (A sad indictment of many Christians is their eagerness to say “They’re not real Christians” about people they disagree with.)

Romans 12:10 says the following:

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor….”

Genuine Christian love places the needs of others above oneself, particularly above one’s wants and convenience.

Christian love is sacrificial. Jesus said we should love one another as He has loved us. How did He love us? Most notably, by dying for our sins. He gave everything for us. Our need for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life superseded His desire for earthly comfort. We do not show our love just by enjoying the company of others when it is convenient. True Christian love demands that we go out on a limb, care for the needs of those who are hurting, even when it means we may have to forego some of our desires. Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, provide clothing to the naked, care for the sick, and visit prisoners. Are we answering His call with loving action, or do we just pray for these people, hoping God will send someone else to make real sacrifices?

Christian love upholds the dignity of others. Some people obsess about power, control, and authority in relationships. One person is “higher up” than another. Too often, sermons about family focus on a hierarchy: The husband is the head of the wife, the parents are over the children, and so on. The Bible justifies some of this. However, it is an incomplete perspective. Without love, it can be dangerous. Husbands, love your wives; wives, love your husbands. Love your children; do not embitter them. Give preference to one another. Show compassion.

Love, respect, and dignity should guide our relationships, not control. Such guidelines should govern all of our relationships, whether in the family, the church, or elsewhere.

Christian love is not always easy. Jesus does not call us to love those who are easy to love; almost anybody can do that! We are called to imitate God and His Son, Jesus Christ. This calls us to love others as Jesus loved us: completely, sacrificially, imparting life and hope to others.

I would like to hear from you. How do you seek God when He seems distant or it looks like He is allowing you to suffer? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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