Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent2010- grow in grace & knowledge

...you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ~2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-9

Monday morning, my daily devotion was 2 Peter 3 (read it yourself). You almost couldn't find a better chapter if you wanted to  study Jesus' second coming, like many Christian denominations do in this last part of the church year.

In verse 2, Peter tells us to think about what the Old Testament prophets had to say about Jesus, the promised messiah.  Peter empathizes with readers about being laughed at for looking forward to Jesus' return (verses 3-4). He tells them that the same skeptics doubt that God created the world (v.5). 

There are actually Republican lawmakers in Congress who deny global warming because in Genesis 9, God promises not to destroy the earth with a flood again. First of all, I figure, PEOPLE are destroying it this time with pollution, whether rising sea levels are part of that or regional climate changes. But in verse 10, Peter explains that the next time God will use fire, not water. 

Now, I tend to be one who thinks he's speaking metaphorically, but if you really want to engage in speculation you could imagine solar flares or nuclear Armageddon. But it's important to keep reading 2 Peter 3 because in verse 10 he also reminds us of what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32- that no one knows when He'll come back and you can't predict it- so just trust that He's coming. 

As God's children, we can look forward to a new Heaven and a new Earth. We have hope, not fear and we should focus on trust, not speculation. Prophecy for us should mean, speaking God's love and forgiveness, not claiming to predict the future.

Most people think of the book of Revelation as being about the end times and imagine that it predicts the last days. One of my all time favorite books is about how Revelation is really a letter of comfort, hope, and joy- things we associate with Christmas time. The book is Joy in Our Weakness: A Gift of Hope from the Book of Revelation by Dr. Marva Dawn.

Sure, as a progressive, I tend to use verse 8, a day is like a thousand years to rationalize being able to believe that God is the creator, yet it's hard to dismiss evidence of at least some evolution- but Peter meant it to assure them that just because Jesus hadn't returned yet, didn't mean He wasn't still coming.

Today we may look around and easily be overwhelmed with doubt and discouragement. The world is pretty dark, the times are pretty hard. But that doesn't mean that God isn't still there, or that He doesn't still love us, or that He isn't coming back again to abolish death, darkness, doubt and despair once and for all.

That's why the real core of this whole chapter is verse 9. Verse 8 isn't about evolution or when the second coming will happen, it's really about verse 9. And verse 9 is all about God's patient love. He doesn't want ANYONE to be lost. He doesn't WANT anyone to go to Hell. His will is that EVERYONE would come to Him for the free gifts of His love and forgiveness. 

What Peter wants for his readers (and he gives Paul kudos for wanting the same in his letters) is for us to keep working at learning and growing in our faith: " But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."

That's what Advent should be all about. Sorry if this post got a little long, or if I wrote more from the head than from the heart- but my hope for you this Advent season, is whether it's here at this blog, some other kind of Advent devotional, or just digging into the Bible on your own- try to grow in both grace and knowledge of Jesus. 

Peace, hope and joy!

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