Faster. This little word ranks among the chief values of our society. We want our food faster, our internet downloads faster, our money to transfer faster. In 2005, we marveled as Amazon unveiled their flagship membership program boasting free two-day shipping. Apparently our appetite for speed was not so easily sated. Can’t wait two days? With Amazon Prime Now, you can receive your product in just two hours! Our addiction to speed seems to be on an exponential curve that could very possibly soon border on insanity. What happens when instant is not soon enough?
Perhaps we should learn how to slow down.
Patience is fruit of the Spirit (Galatians ), which means we are foolish to try to simply manufacture it by our own willpower. But like all works of sanctification, we can pursue means by which we allow for God’s Spirit to work his Christ-conforming work in our hearts. One of the means to grow in patience is by celebrating the Christian season of Advent.
Advent is a season in the church calendar when we celebrate the arrival (adventus, in Latin) of Jesus Christ. But unlike the festive celebration of Christmastide, when we revel in the birth of the incarnate Son of God, Advent is historically a season of longing and preparation. The Savior of the world did not arrive instantaneously upon the announcement of his coming (Genesis 3:15). And do I need to clarify that this does not mean Amazon.com has an advantage on the Lord? God is not slow; he is patient (2 Peter 3:9).
Advent is an opportunity for the Spirit to work patience in our feverish hearts. During Advent we imaginatively place ourselves among the generations of saints yearning and pining for the promised manchild to crush the head of the serpent. Because even though Jesus has already come once in the flesh to inflict the death-blow on sin, he has not yet gathered his sheep from all other folds (John10:16). God means this age of his patience to draw his elect from all nations to repentance (Romans 2:4). When he comes back the second time it will not be for saving, but for sorting (Matthew 25:32). Even so we cry, “Our Lord, come!”
Advent is a season to reflect on all the promises that lead to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. And as we see evidence of God’s faithfulness to promises past, the Spirit of God fortifies our faith in promises yet to be accomplished. A good practice during the season of Advent would be to search out Old Testament promises about the coming Messiah.
Included in this prayer letter is a little e-book with 25 daily readings for Advent. It was first assembled as a devotional guide for the people of Winnetka Bible Church in Winnetka, IL (where I now serve as worship director) to accompany our 2015 Advent sermon series. Seven different authors contributed toward this project, and four of us were recent Bethlehem students. In this book you will get a taste for the kind of Christ-centered biblical theology that characterizes much of the curriculum at Bethlehem. This little book was conceived on a conviction I imbibed in my classes at Bethlehem, that biblical theology ought to be devotional.
Download your copy of Promised Beforehand: Readings for Advent (270 KB)
But far better than seeing Bethlehem in this book, may it be a tool to help you see Jesus. Perhaps you will join our reading this Advent to see the promises God made to raise up a prophet greater than Moses, a priest greater than Joshua, and a king greater than David. These promises all find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. I pray the Spirit would work his patience in our hearts as we join generations of saints longing for the return of our Prophet, Priest & King. It is a promise well worth the wait.
Ryan David Shelton
Worship Director, Winnetka Bible Church, M.Div. Worship Pastor ’15
Craig & Lisa Howse’s Message at Chapel,
November 12, 2015: “Reflections on God’s Grace in Marriage”
Join us for our weekly Chapel Service on Thursday, December 3rd, 12:45-1:45pm, for our Faculty / Board Member Panel.
1. Pray for the peace of the world, the restoration of safety to Paris, the relief of innocent displaced refugees, and for justice be meted out to evil-doers.
2. All resident students receive a Serious Joy Scholarship enabling them to graduate without student loan debt and launch immediately into ministry. At this writing, only 93 of 250 $10,000 scholarships are funded. Pray that in this season when, historically, the largest percentage of annual gifts flow, that God will stir hearts to meet this need.
3. Pray for travelers mercies for President Tomlinson, Dean Steller, several faculty members and seminarians who are in attendance at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta.
4. Continue in prayer for our colleague, Dr. Travis Myers, Assistant Professor of Church History and Mission Studies, as he perseveres gracefully through the rigors of cancer therapy. O Lord, heal our brother!