Advent Reflection: Nothing is Wasted

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But Joseph replied to them: “Do not fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people.”

Genesis 50:19-20

Recall a time when God turned something negative in your life into something good. Pray a prayer of thanks.

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Going Deeper

Read Genesis 37:3-36 and Genesis 50:15-21.

When we go through hard times, people will remind us that “all things work for good for those who love God” (from Romans 8:28). Often, though, it’s hard to see how God can possibly use what’s going on in our lives for good. I’m sure, when Joseph was sitting at the bottom of the cistern or in Pharaoh’s prison because of false accusations, he wondered how God would turn his situation into something good. God lifted Joseph from the dungeon to be Pharaoh’s right-hand man, and to help prepare for the coming famine and save many lives, including those of his father and brothers.

Sometimes, like Joseph, we get to see how God works everything for good. Other times, that mystery remains hidden from us in this life. It can be discouraging to look back on difficult periods of our life and see the scars and the bad memories, without finding the good that resulted. But we know that God is faithful and keeps his promises. He will work all things for good for those who love him, even if we can’t see it yet.

As you reflect on this idea, listen to Jason Gray’s “Nothing is Wasted.”

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Advent Reflection: Abundantly Blessed

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Jacob then made this vow: “If God will be with me and protect me on this journey I am making and give me food to eat and clothes to wear, and I come back safely to my father’s house, the Lord will be my God. This stone that I have set up as a sacred pillar will be the house of God. Of everything you give me, I will return a tenth part to you without fail.”

Genesis 28:20-22

Name 5 gifts God has given you. Have you offered those gifts back to God? Do you give God your first fruits, or your leftovers?

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Going Deeper

Read Genesis 28:10-22

The covenant that God made with Abraham continues with his grandson, Jacob. God reaffirms his promises in this passage. Jacob recognizes that all he has comes from God. This is the foundation of stewardship—recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God. We can’t earn mercy and grace. We aren’t entitled to a nice car, a warm house, and plentiful food. All is gift. In gratitude for God’s gifts to us, we are invited to use those gifts for his glory, and to share what we have with others. Jacob commits to giving a tenth of everything back to God. As God’s generosity toward you increases, I would challenge you to go beyond ten percent. And don’t stop with a monetary tithe. Your life and your abilities are also gifts from God. Are you sharing your time and talent to serve other people and build the kingdom of God that Jesus ushered in?

I invite you to join me today in my own reimagining of the Stewardship Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola:

Father, thank you for the abundant gifts you have given me—both those I recognize as gift, and those I have a harder time accepting or understanding. I offer all of it to you. Take away anything that separates me from you. Give me what I need to become the person you created me to be. Help me to see and embrace every opportunity to use the gifts I’ve been given to give honor and glory to you, and to bring about your kingdom. I open my entire being to your love. May that love penetrate every part of my life and continually shape me into your image. Amen.

Advent Reflection: Discerning God’s Will

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So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”

She answered, “I will.”

Genesis 24:58

Where is God calling you today? Will you go?

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Going Deeper

Read Genesis Chapter 24.

Sometimes it seems like it was so much easier to discern the will of God during Old Testament times. Abraham’s servant just named the sign he was looking for, and the first woman who came to the spring did exactly what she was supposed to. Once he explained his story, Rebekah left her home and family and followed the servant. It all seems so simple and straightforward.

When I try to seek God’s guidance as I make decisions, it is rarely that clear. If I presume to ask for a specific sign, I rarely see it. When I watch for signs, I often see multiple contradictory signs. And I can’t tell if the signs I see are coming from God.

Though it may not seem as easy as it used to be, we do have tools at our disposal to help us determine God’s will. Here are just a few:

  • Pray all the time, not just when you need something or have a question. A habit of prayer will make it easier for you to recognize God’s nudging when you experience it.
  • The Bible. Read the scriptures. God will not ask you to make a choice that contradicts his word. You have to know God’s word to know if the decision you make is consistent with the Bible.
  • Other people. Discuss the situation with people you trust, people whose lives reflect the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). That doesn’t mean that you do whatever the other person tells you to. Instead, let the person help you to understand the situation better, so you can make a wise decision that is consistent with God’s will.

Pray this excerpt from Psalm 27:

Hear my voice, Lord, when I call; have mercy on me and answer me.

“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”;

your face, Lord, do I seek!

 

Lord, show me your way;

lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

Do not abandon me to the desire of my foes;

malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me.

 

I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!

Psalm 27:7,8,11-14

Advent Reflection: What’s Your Motivation?

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Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”                      Genesis 11:4

As you go through your day, think about why you choose to do the things you do. Is there something that you are doing to show up your siblings, to keep up with the Joneses, or to look good to your boss? Consider whether that is really where God wants you to devote your energy.

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Going Deeper

Read Genesis 11:1-9.

Is God opposed to cities and towers? Is it wrong to build things? Not necessarily. The problem in the city of Babel is the people’s motivation. Their goal was not to follow God’s will, or to love their neighbors or care for their families. They wanted to make a name for themselves. They wanted to feel important. Don’t we all desire to be noticed, to be recognized for what we’ve accomplished?

It’s good to show gratitude to other people, to compliment people for the good things they’ve done. But if receiving that recognition becomes our motivation, it may lead us down the wrong path. For example, working overtime to provide for the needs of your family may be the right thing to do. Working overtime to impress your boss and get a promotion, or to buy your spouse a top-of-the-line SUV that will make the neighbors jealous may not be the right thing to do.

A good thing, done for the wrong reason, may not be the right thing.

Heavenly Father, give me singleness of purpose, to serve you and seek your will in all things. Steer me away from pride and self-promotion. May love for you and for your children guide all of my actions.

Advent Reflection: Be Prepared!

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Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”

Matthew 24:37-39, 42

Christ could return today. You could die in a car accident next week. We all know it’s true, but we would rather not think about it. Does the way you live your life reflect this knowledge? If Christ returns today, are you ready?

 

Going Deeper

Read Genesis 6:57:24

During the season of Advent, we are not only called to prepare to celebrate and remember Jesus’ entry into our world two thousand years ago. We are also called to prepare for Jesus’ second coming, which, the Bible says repeatedly, will happen when we least expect it.

Are you living like Noah, a righteous man who walked with God, or like his neighbors, who were corrupt, performed wicked deeds, and entertained evil desires?

To help answer that question, examine how you spend your time and money. Take a look at your bank and credit card statements to get a clear picture of where your money is going. Record your activities for a few days (you can use this log) so you can examine what you are choosing to do with your time. Do you put a priority on pursuing earthly pleasures, impressing your friends, or defeating your enemies? Or are you focused on growing closer to God; loving all of your neighbors, especially those who disagree with you; and serving God and his people?

I challenge you to choose one activity or expenditure that tends to push you away from God and replace it with something that helps you to walk more closely with God.

Holy Spirit, help me to align my priorities with your priorities. Give me the strength to make choices that are consistent with those priorities.

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Advent Reflection: Temptation

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The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Genesis 3:6

What is your greatest temptation? Pray that God will give you the strength to resist that temptation.

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Going Deeper

Read Genesis Chapter 3.

Many of the things that tempt us look good, taste good, or feel good. Often times, when we look around, it seems like everyone else is doing it. And, when we give in to those temptations, it may satisfy a hunger inside of us. But that satisfaction is always fleeting. And the consequences are grave—not because we have to work hard to till the ground or because we now have pain with childbirth—but because sin separates us from God, the only one who can satisfy the longing within us fully and forever.

The good news is, God is eager to forgive. All we have to do is ask.

Think about a time when you faced temptation, and were able to resist. Think about a time when you gave in to temptation. Plan a time this Advent season to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Jesus, thank you for the sacrifice you made so my sins could be forgiven. Holy Spirit, give me the strength to resist temptation. Heavenly Father, I don’t want anything to separate me from you. I ask you to forgive my sins and draw me closer to you.

First Sunday of Advent – Creation

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God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.

Genesis 1:31-2:1

Remember a time in your life when God gave you something new: a new family member, a new job, a new direction, a new outlook, a new faith. And even though you may not have expected it or asked for it, you knew as soon as you saw it that it was very good. Thank God for the new things in your life.

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Going Deeper

Read Genesis 1:12:3

Has your life ever felt like it was “without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss”?

There was a time in my life when I felt lonely and lost, unsure of what the future held and unable to do my job properly because of chronic problems with understaffing. During this dark time, I cherished the moment I stepped out of the car after returning home from my second shift job, when all was still and quiet, and it was just me and the stars. Even though he felt far away, the countless points of light filling the sky assured me that God was there. Through that time of darkness, I came to experience God’s presence in a much closer, more tangible way.

When has God transformed your darkness into something beautiful, something “very good”?

Offer the song Beauty for Ashes as your prayer.

 

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