Newborns, Expectancy and Advent

Yesterday I had the privilege of holding a friend’s newborn baby. He was a mere 13 hours old and I have to say the sheer breath of calm and joy he ushered in was beautiful. To see friends becoming parents, and the elation and sereneness on the faces of my friend as she looked at him, as her husband held him, was one of the most beautiful sights to behold. (Thank you Abby and Tom for allowing me to witness that and hold the fantastic Fitz)

All week there’s been a build up of expectation, even as another friend awaits the arrival of her son whose holding out a bit on them a week after his expected arrival. It occurred to me the same feeling was overcoming me as well heading into Advent season. This expectation of the glory of the Lord. The celebration and elation of the birth of Christ 2,000+ years ago even now.

In doing some digging into expectancy, and what that word looks like (hi word nerd over here) in the Bible, it is so strongly correlated to hope throughout the Hebrew. They are linked and intertwined, and then I found this beautiful imagery of expectation. It is as one with an outstretched neck.

I don’t know about y’all but I LOVE THAT. Expectation is us stretching out to look, to see. It took me back to the days of going to parades in my hometown, and leaning out my head to see what was coming, to see if Santa was near at the Christmas parade, or the band was marching next in our 4th of July parade. You have to put yourself into it and truly feel the expectation in your body.

The expectation doesn’t come without a wait. It doesn’t come without some pangs of hurt, loss, strife, and suffering. Expectancy can be long and drawn out, but it’s still lingers. Hope builds in expectancy, confidence in the thing believed to be on the way. And just as my friends are now living out the fulfilled expectation of new life, so do we. The expectation of this season of Advent brings new life in joy, peace, hope. It ushers in the new life of Christ with us. In flesh now appearing. It brings confident expectation of new life not found in ourselves, but in Him.

All may be calm, it may be quiet as we wait in expectation. But may we lean out our necks to see the fulfillment of our expectation this Advent season in Christ’s presence with us.

Fighting the Storm

Sunset from window

Sometimes a picture can communicate more of what you want to say than words.

It felt like the darkness, the clouds were trying to swallow up the sun as a late afternoon storm rolled in on Monday. The sun kept fighting back the clouds and the storm and I could see it’s fight through a window at the gym.

The sight got at my heart because that’s where I’ve been recently. Unsure of the clouds creeping in and the storm that seems to be forming. I had been wrestling for a couple of weeks on a good thing, a decision that was good and confirming where my heart was leading but that ultimately was not the best thing. Over the weekend I was affirmed in what I felt was where God was leading. Once I voiced it to one person, just one person, I could feel this darkness creep in and a storm brewing. I could feel myself bristle up for a fight because I was choosing the best God has intended and not this very good thing that isn’t for me.

To see that play out visually just hours after I’d started to get that notion was just for me. But maybe it’s for you too. Maybe God needed you to hear, to see, to read that the thing you decided on and now feel the darkness creeping in is what He wants for you. He wants that very best thing, and not the really good thing you said “no” to right now. He wants that obedience in what He has long been calling you towards, reminding you of. The darkness doesn’t want that, Satan doesn’t want you going hard after obedience because it scares him when you are in God’s will, in relationship and fellowship with Him pursuing after what He’d have for you.

May this bring you hope, affirmation, confidence in the fight ahead. The sun always fights back against the encroaching storm. The Son already fought it off so that you could be in Him in all things. When the storm comes. When the clouds creep in. When the devil would have you doubt and fear the very best God has for you.

David’s Swagger

I love a good war speech. The bravado and confidence as warriors go out to fight, called to bear arms by their leader. But I love the underdog in it too, where the cards are obviously stacked against them and there’s just zero way they can pull this out. Led often times by a humble individual who knows the call to lead. (One of the many reasons I do love me some Jon Snow and Sir Davos’ intro to the queen on GoT)

Maybe that’s why I love David’s speech in 1 Samuel as he goes out to face Goliath. Like I fist pump the air when I read it, that’s how much I love it. But it’s not because of any confidence in David’s strength or abilities, but his absolute love for God and trust in God’s provision of victory in battle. David doesn’t mention once in that speech before the giant his own victories over a bear and a lion….y’all, a bear and a lion.

Nope, David points directly to the God of hosts. The God of hosts will deliver the Philistines, He will strike down Goliath. It is all in His hands and His power because He is the God of hosts. I’d often bypassed one of God’s titles in my reading simply out of habit. But this is more than God’s title, it’s a descriptor of Who He is, part of Him. You see, God of hosts means that all the created agencies and powers are under the dominion of Yahweh, our God. He is sovereign and He is power.

Here Goliath is talking about his spear, his might, his shield bearer going out before him….and David’s pointing to the All-Mighty God as his weapon. I mean y’all. How triumphant and fist-pumping are those words from David? The God of all armies is on his side? Yes and thank you.

It’s not a false speech, dependent upon man’s strength or power. It’s not a swagger of false bravado. It is the words that are full of praise and soul-digging truth, that the God of all hosts goes before us into battle. He is with us and is strong enough for any battle that is calling us to the field. Those giants may taunt with words, they may scare with swords and spears, but He is our God. He is THE God of all armies. Power and might are His.

Here’s my question for myself today…Do I take that same trust and truth into my own battlefield? Do I confront the giants in my life with my confidence in God or in my self?

What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

Do you ever find yourself working over a particular word or idea and then finding it everywhere you turn around? Lately the term “confidence” has been swirling in my mind. The thought of it, the intentionality behind it, where it derives from within us and where I actually place mine.

The more I have given space to confidence, the more I have wrestled with my own. What it is defined by and what it is placed in.

I think over time we find ourselves putting our confidence in alot of things don’t we? The relationship, the friendship, the beliefs we were told, and even in ourselves. We become really good at putting our confidence, this firm trust in everything outside of the one thing we should.

And that’s where I find God.

His steadfast nature. His true and faithful promise. All that He is exactly where my confidence should be. Where I should remain, knowing, trusting, believing.

I look at David’s words, as I stumbled across them, scribbled in the margins of a book I am re-reading as he cried to God in the cave, as Saul sought his life. He cries out in praise of God: “My heart is confident in You, o God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing Your praises” (Psalm 57:7).

Can I say the same? Do the praises I pour out come from a confident heart in Christ? Or do my words betray me? Do my actions and life lived out point to a heart confident only in self, in what I can do and accomplish, in my own merits? Or is it confident in that position, that title I have or want? Is it placing a good and beautiful gift of steadfast faith in something that is bound to perish and fall away? That will never fulfill the expectation that confidence heaps upon it?

I have placed my confidence in many ridiculous things over the years, including myself more times than I’d like to admit. But when I come down to the root of it, to the root of me, I have to be consciously aware and choosing the steadfast faith I have in the God who is forever the same, and not a changing, flitting heart of my own.

So what is wrong with being confident? Not a thing when it’s a confidence that comes straight from Christ Himself, and a confidence that is in Him alone.

Confidence Booster

For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh— although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee;  regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

Philippians 3:3-6 (HCSB)

I like to skim part of these verses above. In the midst of reading Philippians, I looking at Paul’s brag list of his lineage, education and training…and I get a little jealous. If you are like me you start sizing him up against yourself and find you are left wanting.

Here’s the rub though…Paul isn’t writing this for bragging rights. Quite the contrary. Here he is, in jail nonetheless, telling us that if we boast in confidence, he’s got us beat. But if we focus in on that we miss it, tightly woven in just before as he’s talking about his life before Christ, that we should not be putting confidence in the flesh.

Our flesh.
Our own strength. Our own might. Our own individual selves.

None of it. Not a single bit of it should we find or place confidence in within ourselves. The foundation that is built isn’t by our means, or our ways, or in our timing or in our strength. What’s more, our future does not lie in embracing our past.

We aren’t who we were when we are in Christ. We are new. We are being re-newed each day with mercies given by Him. We cannot boast in that. I cannot be confident that I will get my to-do list done each day, but I can be confident that my God is and will be right beside throughout the day.

I can boast that nothing is ever done in my own strength, as much as I try to wrestle it from Him. I know that the ministry I work in, the paycheck I receive and the people I encounter each day are all a part of His plan-not something I have concocted.

If I choose to live in the confidence of my own self, I see a person who tries and fails way too often, who pursues the wrong things, gets distracted by the inherently good things, and someone who desires after more. But His more for me is in no comparison because as Paul continues on in Philippians any of the stuff that I gain in my own self, through my own means, is a loss when it comes to Christ.

When it comes to comparing the two, there isn’t even a consideration because everything I thought was worth striving for when I was far from Him is dingy, ugly and worthless when I see life lived in and through Him. So rather than boasting in myself, who sometimes succeeded in selfish pursuits but found a life fully lived out in Christ was far more adventurous and plentiful. Because He shifts my past to where I am not grasping it for my future. Instead He gives me a new hope, a boasting in His truth, and a foundation that is firm in love and mercy.

That. Him…He is exactly where my confidence lies. I don’t want a righteousness of my own making as it will never come to fruition, lead to only further anguish and self-seeking while giving a false hope that I am able to do it. So I boast in Him. That it not be of me, but of Him.

Quitting Confidence

Last week I posted on quitting the resolutions. Today I wanted to briefly share this…

I quit having confidence in the flesh. It’s flawed. It fails. Most of all, it’s faulty from the fall. Why do I continue to put confidence in the flesh? Most of the time it’s in others and not even in my own flesh that I place confidence.

I put expectations, hopes, and affirmations safely in their keeping…and it’s ridiculous. We all fail. We are all imperfect. We disappoint and we stumble. Sometimes Most of the time we fall.

So today, on Thursday since it’s a good day to quit stuff. I quit having confidence in the flesh. I will boast in the confidence that is found in Christ. The stable, firm foundation. The steadfastness of HIS work, HIS character, and HIS promises. They have never failed…and they won’t start now.

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh… Philippians 3:3 

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:31