Advent: Be Honest

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Day Seven: Have Do More Than Look the Part

The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it (Mark 11:12-14, NLT).

I remember as a child how difficult it was to get to church without an argument about something. No matter how loud the conversation was, or what we had said to each other, as soon as we were out of the car the bickering stopped, and we looked the part of well-behaved children of perfect parents. 

Appearance trumped reality.

That message was drilled into me. So much so, that before I knew it I was practicing the same thing with my own children. 

Then one morning in my quiet time, I reflected deeply on today’s text. The conviction went just as deep and changed me forever. I also found a book that cemented the need for change. It’s title alone has become a mantra for being real: “No More Faking Fine” (Esther Fleece). 

TO PONDER: How different would life be if we owned where we really are instead pretending to be okay? What would it take to live honestly instead of wearing a mask of “okay-ness”? 

TO DISCUSS: This need for perfection, for looking like we should have fruit, but not doing it, was the reason Jesus cursed the fig tree. Jesus response to the fig tree “pretending” to be a fruit-bearer brought strong words from Jesus. Wearing a mask, pretending to be fine, getting stuck in appearances and expectations, are not what Jesus wants from us. Who can you be really you with—no pretending, no faking fine? Where do you feel that safe? 

PRAYER: God, your word tells me, “you want complete honesty, so teach me true wisdom (Psalm 51:6, CEV).” I confess sometimes I wear a mask, and hide my true feelings from others—and even try to do it with you. Help me to come clean with you…and with others. I want my appearance—the way I live—to reflect you. Help me to live that way today, and every day. Amen

Wondering and Wandering: Camel Swallowing

Swallowed any camels lately? In Matthew 23, Jesus is really coming down pretty hard on the religious establishment, the Pharisees. He calls them blind guides and hypocrites more than once in the tirade. Jesus seems very concerned that they attempt to make a really good presentation, but lack the inner substance to back it up. They were majoring in the minors and leaving the camel in the middle of the room unattended…and what a mess that ended up making of things!

How many of our homes are decorated for Christmas, both inside and out, but our hearts are sorely unattended to? How many parties and functions will we go to, dressed in our holiday best, but not even considering our spiritual attire? How many gifts will be purchased to impress spouses, lovers, kids and grandkids, bosses, and friends while the greatest gift we can give to the One who deserves it most will be either ignored or stretched so thin that little would even remain to give?

I read a post online by someone recently who was going on about how much they love Advent. They love the songs, the parties, the shopping, the eats. It made my heart sad. The purpose of Advent is not to get the world around us ready for the biggest gift giving day of the year. The purpose of Advent is to reflect on the greatest gift ever given and to be sure that our hearts are ready to receive it.

The Wisemen rode camels to find Jesus. That seems a much wiser thing to do than to swallow one and miss the Master.

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