Hope: The First Candle of Advent

advent-wreath-hope-pixabayIn the New Testament church, an anchor symbolized hope. In 2015, I pursued a yearlong archaeological dig into God’s Word, studying the word anchor, and every angle of hope. As a result, I selected “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”(Hebrews 6:19),  as my verse for 2015.

My 2015 study of hope followed with an unexpected medical diagnosis and struggle to find my identity in 2016. I did not know the studying hope would be future preparation for my faith (and my family’s faith) to be tested. We battened down the hatches, clung to our anchor of hope and prayed for God to calm the raging storm.

Hope is choice.

When we choose to believe God is who He says He; when we choose to believe God can do what He promised; when we choose to have the audacity to praise a thrice-holy God in the face of the fiercest storm, we are choosing to HOPE.

I choose Hope.hope-meme-christmas-wooden-background-pixabay

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, he wrote; Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.” (2 Corinthians 10:15)

Paul’s mission in these words is the same mission Christians possess today, to increase our faith, expand our area of influence, and spread the gospel beyond its current borders. One way we can do this is to cling to hope.

Each of us has a sphere of influence. Whether at work, school, or in our neighborhood, those around us are encouraged by watching our faith anchored to Jesus Christ. When we choose to hope in the face of adversity, others are watching, and we are doing exactly what Paul described—expanding the gospel beyond.

Blue anchor pixabayOur family and our extended church family have suffered greatly this year. To be honest, I wanted to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas and go straight to January. My grasp on hope was slipping. It took a wresting match with God and a verbal spanking from my daughter to strengthen my grip on hope.

 If your grasp on God’s anchor of hope is slipping, follow the instructions in Hebrews Take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Hebrews 12:12) and cling tightly to the firm and secure hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Hope for Advent:  Week One Readings

  • Day 1: Psalm 62:5-6
  • Day 2: Hebrews 6:18-19
  • Day 3: Psalm 71:5-8, 14, 20
  • Day 4: Psalm 52:8-9
  • Day 5: Psalm 89:15, Psalm 130:5
  • Day 6: Isaiah 46: 3-4, Isaiah 54:7, 10
  • Day 7: 2 Corinthians 10:15

What is Advent?

    Advent is a season to remember that God reached down from heaven and extended Hope in the form of Jesus Christ. Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Christ’s birth was “the first Advent” and the anticipation of Christ’s return in “the second Advent.”

When is Advent?

The season of Advent begins four Sunday’s before Christmas. The four week waiting period during the four Sunday’s of Advent represent the four centuries of waiting between the last recorded Word of God from the prophet Malachi (in the Old Testament) and the arrival of Jesus Christ (in the New Testament). Advent is time of preparing hearts for Christ’s birth, both in celebration, reflection, and repentance.

What the does the Advent wreath and candles symbolize?

          The greenery wreath, a circle, represents God’s never-ending mercy and His eternity. The color green represents the renewal of eternal life in Christ. The candles within the wreath symbolize the light of God coming to the world through the birth of His son, Jesus Christ.

            The lighting of the first candle begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The first candle symbolizes Hope—the anticipation of Hope in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The three remaining candles symbolizing Love, Joy, and Peace are light each Sunday during the season of Advent. Together, each of the four candles tells the part of the Christmas story of Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angels. The fifth and center candle represents Christ, the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of Pixabay. © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Storm Survival: Faith Lessons from my Dogs

Faith Lessons from a dog“Where’s Guinness,” my husband asks.

“Hiding I’m sure. He’s scared of storms,” I reply handing him the kid’s lunchboxes. “You know that dog, I’m sure he is hiding under Rachel’s bed.”

Minutes later my husband and kids head out the door to school and work.  I pour a cup of freshly brewed liquid mercy and pad upstairs to my red chair.  Raindrops pelt the windows with fierce intensity. I look out over the lake, but it is too dark to see. In the distance, thunder booms. “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.” (Psalm 29:3) Savoring the hazelnut aroma, I close my eyes and sit in silence before the Lord.

I open my eyes to see a pair of soft brown eyes staring up at me, silently begging to be held. “Oh Kinsey,” I coo in her ear. She curls up close, lets out an exasperated sigh, and drifts to sleep.

I watch her rib cage expand and contract to the rhythm of her breathing. I smile at the thought of our two Jack Russell Terriers with opposite responses to the same storm. Guinness, the stout dog-hence the name, with the brown patch on his eye, hides in isolation and darkness during a storm.  Kinsey, our runt of the litter Jack Russell Terrier, seeks reassurance and refuge next to her master in a storm.

I stood, careful not to disturb Kinsey and padded into the kitchen to refill my mug.  Not wanting to be leave her Master’s side, Kinsey followed. Returning to my red chair, Kinsey sensed her master’s direction, ran ahead of me, and jumped on the cushion. I laughed.

Continuing my quiet time with the Lord (and Kinsey) I pondered these verses:sea storm pier I will not be shaken verse Pixabay

“He guards the lives of his faithful ones” (Psalm 97:10)

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortressmy refuge in times of trouble.”(Psalm 59:16)

Through different surprise storms of life, I have responded in the same manner as Guinness and Kinsey. I hid my face from God and resorted to isolation, when I suffered a miscarriage, and I begged God to hold me up during my battle with post-partum depression.

In my current storm, I have great peace. Waves of uncertainty threaten to crash over me. I am anchored (Hebrews 6:19) to the one who created the sea (Genesis 1:9), and calms the sea with the sound of His voice (Matthew 8:26).

Isolation or refuge in God. How you approach a storm will determine your peace. Click To Tweet

What was the last storm you weathered? How did you respond? When surprised by unexpected storms, we can respond by hiding in isolation and self-sufficiency, or by seeking refuge from our Heavenly Father.  I’ve done both and only one response brings peace.

Seeking refuge in Christ alone,

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of author & Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Buoyant Joy

Bass boat Smith Mountain Lake“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Bass boats skim across the lake, a rooster tail of water rockets into the air. Spring yawns as petioles stretch open uncurling their true purpose. The leaves are on full display today narrowing my view of the main channel. In the center of my view, a “No Wake” buoy bobs as the bass boats disturb its quiet resting place.

This buoyant channel maker captivates my attention. It never sinks. Waves toss the buoy to and fro kissing the water, always returning to its upright position.sunset water buoy Pixabay

“Joy is not mere happiness. Nor does joy spring from a life of ease, comfort, or peaceful circumstances. Joy is the soul’s buoyant response to a God of promise, presence, and power.”–Susan Lenzkes

Buoy: noun/  a floating object anchored in water to mark something (as a channel)

Buoy: verb/ to mark by a buoy, to keep afloat, to raise the spirits of

Buoyancy: noun/ the power of a fluid to exert an upward force on a body placed in it, resilience of spirit.

Buoyant joy is a by-product of resilient faith. Click To Tweet

It does not guarantee the absence of a storm; rather it guarantees the ability to bounce back.

A buoy is anchored in water with the purpose of marking the main channel. Our faith and joy are anchored to His living water.  We serve as channel markers, guiding those in the midst of the storm to stay on course, encouraging others as we bob along.

Even though thick fog impedes my future, I know the One to whom I’m anchored. Knowing I will bounce back because He is the God over the storm assufog dock Pixabayres me “It is well with my soul.”

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of author or Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Security Found

“God makes her secure forever.” (Psalm 48:18)

This is not a drill imageSecurity is my number one driving factor. Therefore, the loss of security is my largest fear.

My mom drilled security into my mind at an early age. “April Dawn I want you to go to college and get a good job so that you don’t have to rely on a man.” Mom is not an ultra feminist, but a realist. My parents are Baby Boomers whose parents survived the Great Depression by grit and grace. Along with Grandma’s quilts and dishes, my sister and I inherited their desperate need for security.

Mom’s mantra to “go to college, get a good job, so I don’t have to rely on a man” is based on the 1980’s recession. Like thousandsquilt Pixabay of Americans, my father was laid off due to the economic decline. Dad worked various part time jobs in the interim, while Mom continued to work in her hair salon and as a crossing guard. Always optimistic, mom would occasionally smile and say, “Get yourself a good job; you never know what will happen.” The economy turned around and dad returned to his previous employer and eventually retired from the company.

Matching my love of people and science to mom’s advice, I chose Pharmacist as my career. Fourteen years later, I would be forced to step away from that career (temporarily, I pray) due to health issues. We are thankful to rely on my husband’s income and insurance.

Today, the CWA union went on strike.

In case, you missed that. I am not working and my husband is on strike.

This is not a drill.

 Anchor-2BpaintingI spent 2015 studying the verse: “We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)

I did not expect this series of events, but I am not terrified either. I am firmly secure, anchored to a thrice-Holy God.

What did I do when we discovered my beloved was on strike today? I poured two cups of liquid mercy, one for him and one for me. Then, I pulled my little red chair up to God’s throne. Touching knees with the Almighty, He reassured me with these Scriptures:

“You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.” (Job 11:18)

 “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12)

“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. (2 Samuel 22:33, Psalm 18:32)

 “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:5)

 “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.” (Psalm 16:9)

 “God makes her secure forever.” (Psalm 48:18)

Mom was partially correct. It is important to obtain a good job. However, it is more important to have a secure relationship in Christ. A mature faith is required to carry you when the storms of life crash your little boat. I rely heavily on the one man to whom anchors my faith, Jesus Christ.Boat storm Pixabay

Friend, is the earth beneath your feet giving way? Are the waves crashing in you boat? God makes you secure forever. Resting in the promise of Psalm 48:18 ushers in peace, and “it is well with my soul.”

~April Dawn White

What is Your Anchor Outlook

Last month twenty-five men from my church gathered for a prayer meeting. These men specifically prayed for eight individuals. Unbeknownst to me, I was one of the eight.coffee-2Bimage

Last week, I received an email from my friend’s husband. While he was praying for me, the word ‘anchor’ came to mind. (If you are new to Red Chair Moments, ‘anchor’ was my word for 2015. I wrote an entire anchor series.)

I am humbled and honored to share with you Bev’s insight he roped in while studying God’s Word. Pull up your chair. Refill your mug. As my Grandma Rheba would say “We’re going to sit a spell.” You will be blessed. ~April

 

Guest Post written by Bev Chaffin

On the night of JPrayer-2Bby-2BGerd-2BAltmann-2BPixabayanuary 29, 2016 around twenty-five men converged on the Radford Baptist campus to pray. We read and prayed through several passages of scripture. We also took a block of time to pray for about eight individuals in our church body who were facing trials of various kinds. Their pictures were posted in different stations with a brief description of their difficulties. We individually took time at each station to pray for that person, sign a card, and include a personal message. When I came to April, the familiar word anchor came to mind. I started to think about what an anchor was. Two thoughts came to mind.

Depending on your perspective, an anchor can have two variations in its purpose. It can have a positive or a negative conAnchor for our Soul made on Picmonkeynotation. If I am in a boat race dropping anchor would not be a good idea. It would either severely hinder or stop my progress all together.

But, if I were moored in a harbor an anchor would hold the vessel in place to keep it from drifting away or running aground. As I considered this I thought of how our circumstances can be viewed in the same way. We can either see them through the negative lens of hindrance or the positive lens of securing.

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” But do you know where this phrase originated? The Bible states:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

This is a very comforting verse but it is often looked at out of context. It doesn’t say all things are good, but that all things work together for good. This verse comes out of an amazing chapter which talks about the sufferings we must endure in this life because of sin. The world is marred by the effects of our wrong choices.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

If we stop there we can take on the negative perspective of being held down. Oh but wait! Let’s back up. The chapter starts by saying:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

Praying hand holding-hands-752878_1920 PIxabayThe passage continues:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Amen!!! Therein lies the positive perspective that we are secured to the only anchor that can keep us from being shipwrecked no matter what storm may come our way.

Great news, but you may still be asking, “Why would this good God let us even be subjected to these trials?” That is something we individually need to press into God about. It could be that he drops anchor when he sees us drifting into danger.

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

Perhaps God is mooring us close to his side to keep us from depending on anything lesser than him.flock of sheep by Hans at Pixabay

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3).

Keeping us near to his side, the place we find refuge and satisfaction, is the most loving thing he could do. In both of these situations the anchor is tied with the tethers of love.

So, child of God, the next time you start to wonder, “Why?” ask your Heavenly Father what he is trying to teach you, and thank him that He cares enough not to let you drift away. Jesus spoke:

“Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)flour sifter Pixabay

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”(Hebrews 6:17-20).

Keeping us near to his side, the place we find refuge and satisfaction. Our anchor is tied with the tethers of love.

Written by Bev Chaffin

Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

Anchored to Faith in 2015

Anchor-2BpaintingBy April Dawn White

For the past year, I have examined every angle and nuisance of the word anchor. As 2015 comes to a close, I’ve decided to reflect on what God has taught me though this weighty word.

Anchor [an-ker] noun

  1. A heavy metal device attached to a ship that catches hold of the bottom and holds this ship in place.
  2. Something that serves to hold an object firmly[1]

On January, 14, 2015, I shared in the post, Anchor: My Word for 2015  how I examined the shape and purpose of the anchor.In my journal I wrote; “Lord, I don’t know what you are planning for me in 2015, but I trust you. You are my Anchor – My hope -My foundation. I will hold onto You, and the weight of the cross will hold me in place.

On January 1, 2015 I christened the New Year by creating a painting of an anchor and Hebrews 6:19. Every morning I smile as I look at the bright colors of my simple artwork. I rest in the assurance of whatever this year brings; my soul is anchored to the Lord, firm and secure!

In the post Anchor: A Symbol of Hope, I shared that the first century Christians used the anchor as a symbol of safety and hope.  The first to follow Jesus were fishermen. Because of their occupation, an anchor would have been a common piece of equipment for Christ’s first disciples, thereby making an anchor a recognizable symbol of unfailing hope for all who believe. 

On February 5, 2015 I explained what happens, When the Anchor Moves.Boat and hope tab for RCM

When a ship drops anchor, it does so to:

  • Keep the vessel from drifting away
  • Stabilize itself from the waves and current
  • Maintain current location/position
  • Preserve the ship from being shipwrecked in a storm.
  • Stay put

God showed me the significance of raising an anchor. When the captain of a ship raises the anchor, it signifies to the passengers that it is time to move on the next port-of-call. When an anchor is raised, it is time to move on to the next new adventure! 

When a ship raises the anchor it does so to:

  • Leave its current port-of-call
  • Set sail to a new adventure
  • It signifies a new journey ahead.

I don’t know what lies ahead for this year. Will continue to have our anchor dropped at our current location? Will God raise the anchor and set sail for a new adventure? I don’t know what God has up His holy sleeve, but I trust in the Captain of my vessel. I am holding firm to His anchor.

In the February 24, 2015 article Get a Better Grip, I examined the parts of an anchor. God showed me, my position will determine my rest. Yes, I could dangle from the shank of God’s anchor, but wouldn’t it be more restful if I stood firmly upon the anchor’s palm, if I stood firmly on His palm?

My weary heart reminded to:

  • “Take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.” (Hebrews 12:12 NLT)
  • “Stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 NLT)

hands-407389_1280 (1)pixabayIn March, I shared my victory over depression in the article, Holding Hands.  When I sense the dark fog rolling in, I run to the tear crinkled pages of my Bible. With one hand I grab hold of the anchor of hope found in God’s word. With the other hand, I squeeze the mighty right hand of God.

 On December 21, 2015, exactly one year from the day I heard the words “I will be your anchor. Hold on with both hands, Chris and I sat in my neurologist’s office and heard these words:  “Mrs. White, I need to schedule you for an MRI to rule out Multiple Sclerosis.”

Faith in the name of Jesus Christ is my Anchor.

 I have welcomed each day of 2015 reading, writing, or speaking my verse for 2015:

“We have this HOPE as an ANCHOR for our soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)

 Debbie Macomber writes in her book, One Perfect Word, “Trust comes easier when our faith is solid.”[2] Those words ring true in my life. I am not fearful for my future, because I trust in God. My greatest gift this Christmas is the supernatural peace God has given me great peace about this neuromuscular health issue.

Friend, I don’t know what season you are currently facing. Whether you are in a season of smooth sailing or treacherous waters, remember in Christ we have an anchor of hope for our soul, firm and secure! Hang on!Anchor for our Soul made on Picmonkey

Wishing you a faithful and faith-filled New Year!

~April

P.S. Other articles in the Anchor series include:

 

[1] Mish, Frederick. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 2004.

[2] MacComber, Debbie. One Perfect Word. Nashville: Howard, 2012.

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