Not What I Expected

by Crystal Bowman

The year 2020 was not what I expected. I had several story hour programs scheduled at bookstores. I was looking forward to teaching courses at writers’ conferences. I planned on flying to see my out-of-state grandkids to celebrate their birthdays. Some of my kids and grandkids were going to stay with us for a few weeks in August. I bought a backyard toddler swimming pool and splash pad. I couldn’t wait to see my little ones laughing and splashing in the warm summer temps.

But none of that happened. Like the rest of the world, I was not expecting a global pandemic to bring my life to a screeching halt.

When God sent his Son into the world more than 2000 years ago, Jesus was God in human form. For hundreds of years, prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah. They spoke of his birth, his ministry, and triumphal reign. They even knew where Jesus would be born. In Micah 5:2 (NIV) the prophet tells us, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clansof Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  And in Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) we read, Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”

The name Immanuel means God with us. But when Jesus came to earth, he was not what the people expected. The Jews were looking for a conquering king who would deliver them from Roman rule and establish an earthly kingdom. They were looking for a Messiah and Savior who would make all things right. But things didn’t happen the way they thought they would. Instead, Jesus’ followers watched him die a criminal’s death on a rugged cross. This was not what they expected, but it was part of God’s plan to make a way for people to be forgiven and restored into fellowship with God.

Even though Jesus told his followers he would rise from the grave, they didn’t fully understand what he meant. When he appeared to them after his resurrection, they were surprised because they were not expecting to see him again. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples once again asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 NIV). They still didn’t understand.  

Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of peace and justice which comes through God’s grace and mercy. Through faith in Jesus, we become citizens in the kingdom of heaven. His kingdom is here and now, but many don’t see it.  

When Jesus returns, he will establish his kingdom on earth and will reign through all eternity. He will make all things right and we will live forever in peace. It’s a kingdom we will see, and it will be better than we expect.

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord
 (Philippians 2:10-11 NIV).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: How has God surpassed your expectations?

Joining in the Esteem of Heaven

by Patti Richter

I fancied myself an actress after starring in my eighth-grade play. My high school drama team proved more competitive. A girl named Mary received the lead role in our spring production while I accepted the part of collecting admission tickets for the event.

When Mary graduated and left Arkansas to pursue an acting career in New York City, I was skeptical. After all, her accent was even stronger than mine. And was as she really that good?  The answer repeated itself over the years as Mary Steenburgen starred in one big-screen movie after another. I realized she was truly talented—especially when she won an Academy Award.

Another girl named Mary hailed from the humble town of Nazareth, in Galilee. If not highly esteemed by her peers, she had heavenly admirers. An angel informed her: “You have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son. . . Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. . . His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:26-33, NIV).

The book of Isaiah had supplied God’s people with a description of what to look for in the coming Messiah. The prophet said he would grow up “like a root out of dry ground. . . no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, 3 NIV).

In Bethlehem, while angels and shepherds worshiped the child born in a stable, descendants of David, oblivious to the arrival of the Savior, slept in warm beds at nearby inns. A Roman decree had brought them to register for a census (Luke 2:1-20). They fulfilled their duty but missed their opportunity to witness the advent of the One who would divide the old world from the new—Before Christ and After.

The people of Nazareth, forgetting Isaiah’s words, also missed out. After Jesus began his ministry and returned to teach in his hometown, they were amazed, but not for the right reason. “Isn’t his mother’s name Mary?” “Where then did this man get all these things?” Perhaps resenting Jesus’s favor with God, “they took offense” and missed whatever blessings might have come to them. Jesus “did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:53-58 NIV).

The Pharisees missed out too, by esteeming the letter of the law above the Lawgiver. Instead of criticizing Jesus for healing the sick on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:1-14) they could have fetched a sick friend or family member in need of the Lord’s touch.

While those people looked to find fault with the Redeemer, our modern society does no better, accepting him only on its own terms. Baby Jesus in the manger still appeals to many, at least during the holiday season. And Jesus’s teachings continue to provide popular maxims for those who adapt and paraphrase his words without giving credit to the Source.

However, Jesus requires more than selective admiration: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And he commends those who do not reject his claims: “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble  on account of me” (Matthew 11:6 NIV).

As Christ’s followers, we may lose favor in some circles. We’ll be tolerated by those who nod but do not bow to God. We’ll be dismissed as narrow-minded by those who reject the Savior. Yet we will be blessed—favored—by God.

Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.  Isaiah 43:7 NASB

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Joining in the Esteem of Heaven – encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What does the Christmas story mean to you?

A Season of Waiting…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

“But me! I will keep watch for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”  Micah 7:7 CEB  

Imagine waiting more than 400 years for an answer to prayer!

That’s what God’s chosen people had to do – they waited in the dark, hoping for deliverance. Perhaps while singing their own version of “Come, Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free…”[1]

In between the Old and New Testaments, the heavens seemed closed to the nation of Israel. God was silent. They thought nothing was happening. And likely felt their prayers for a Messiah were falling on deaf ears. Yet, in reality, God was still at work bringing about the perfect political and religious settings for the appearance of His Son.

God’s timing is always best. Even if it means we have to wait. We can always be assured that He hears us.

During those waiting years, the Jews had become unwilling subjects of the Roman Empire. They wanted more than just limited freedom to worship and hope. As they read the prophecies of the Old Testament, they dreamed of a Messiah who would finally arrive and restore them to the powerful nation they were in the time of King David. Surely this person would be a mighty warrior, a strong and larger-than-life hero!

No one was looking for a helpless, newborn baby. In a barn.

What are you waiting for these days?

Maybe for that feeling to go away? You know, the one that keeps reminding you that you’re not enough and never will be, the one where you are searching for something that will make everything else fall into place…but it’s just beyond reach? Sometimes I think I’m waiting to experience that Perfect Family Gathering with diverse loved ones all in agreement and full of praise for me as the matriarch (you know, when “her children rise up and call her blessed…”).

God knows.

He desires good things for us but often His timing is not in sync with ours. “We orient our lives to speed. We want faster computers, fast food, instant coffee. We want what we want now, so waiting becomes hard. Waiting in our prayer life and waiting for Christmas become disciplines we return to every December. For what do we wait? Do we wait for a baby to be born? Do we wait for peace to dwell in the whole world and in our fractured, busy lives? Do we wait for the rebirth of joy, a rekindling of hope?”[2]

Here are some steps I find helpful during those excruciating waiting times:

  • Write down your prayers and concerns for this situation.
  • Assure God you truly desire His will in His way.
  • Intercede in prayer for others you know who are also waiting.
  • Take the next step that has been made clear to you.

Why not choose to try one of these in these days of Advent? Keep watch. God will show up.

[1] “Come, Thou long expected Jesus” a hymn by Charles Wesley, 1745

[2] “Openings,”

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A Season of Waiting… – insight from @LucindaSMcDowel on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

LucindaSMcDowell.19 (2)About the author: Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while helping people to choose a life of serenity and strength. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the award-winning author of 15 books. Whether co-directing the ReNew Retreat, pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages.

Lucinda’s latest book, Life-Giving Choices: 60 Days to What Matters Most, is a devotional book designed to help you discover what brings life, joy, and meaning. While there are myriad ways in which we can choose to spend our lives, only a few essentials truly matter. “Don’t settle for the good when you can choose the best.”

Join the Conversation: What are you waiting for?