Bob Dukes


Sometimes God’s designs and ways are cloaked with mystery. (Proverbs 25:2)  But other times His works and miracles are simply overlooked or misinterpreted due to selfish preoccupation, faulty presuppositions, or crass disobedience.  In Galatians 4:4, the Scriptures declare that “in the fullness of time, God sent His Son to redeem us”.  The “fullness” mentioned in this passage was the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy that provided insight into the time of Messiah’s appearance.

Calculating forward from Daniel 9:24-27 and Nehemiah 2, the first century Jewish leaders had good reason to believe that The Advent was upon them.  Even the location was public knowledge.  (Matt. 2:1-6)  But a misplaced concern for Jewish nationalism (and ensuing political power-mongering) blinded them to the larger Kingdom agenda set forth by God. This, in turn, led to an inability to perceive “the fullness of the times”.  Isaiah prophetically warned of this condition, and Jesus testified to the outworking effects. (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matt. 16:1-2)

Instead of waiting in expectant faith, the rabbinical leaders become despondent due to the loss of their national sovereignty.  One tradition reports that in response to the taxation census of Caesar Augustus mentioned in Luke 2:1, they sat by the roads outside Jerusalem mourning yet another evidence of Roman rule.  Instead of prompting repentance, this event fostered their questioning the goodness and sovereignty of God, and the immutability of His Word.  They reportedly shouted,  “The scepter has departed from Judah, and Shiloh (Messiah) has not come!”  (cf, Gen. 49:10)

Ironically, as they tore their robes and tossed dust over their heads, a young couple, wearied from their journey from Nazareth, passed by on the way to Bethlehem to register for the same census.  The woman was riding on a donkey and expecting a Baby who was the fulfillment of the times and all hopes.  But they didn’t recognize Him or the signs of His coming.  Their agenda was too earthbound to see or participate in the heavenly visitation.

This makes me wonder what I’m missing.  Too often, I’m troubled by the loss of personal privilege, or angry when reminded that I don’t retain any real control over life’s issues.  In response, I grumble inwardly, questioning the goodness of God and His wisdom.  (I grumble in silence because I’m too proud to allow my colleagues to actually hear me complain and question my maturity.)

As a leader in the contemporary church, I’m too often preoccupied with matters other than discipleship and the care-of-souls.  Externals matter more than internals.  I pay lip-service to Christlikeness evidenced by sacrificial love, but do I actually practice it?  (This is beginning to sound and feel a lot like those other religious leaders who missed the First Advent.  Might I be unprepared for His Second Coming in the same way, and for the same reasons, they missed His First?)

I remember Jesus pointing out that wisdom is a prerequisite for being prepared for His Second Coming.  He warned that there were two sets of maidens who were anticipating the arrival of The Bridegroom.  (Matt. 25: 1-13)  But only one group retained wisdom.  The second suffered for their lack of preparation.  It’s interesting that at the conclusion of The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advised that the man who hears His words and “puts them into practice” (emphasis mine) is considered wise, able to withstand the storms of life.  (Matt. 7: 24-29)

Putting truth into practice seems to be a necessary requisite as we prepare for His Second Advent.  When “The Final Storm” comes, only the man with a heart of wisdom will be adequately prepared, and his house will stand in that deluge.  (cf. II Pet. 3: 3-14)  I wonder if this isn’t what Jesus intended when He urged His disciples before His Ascension to “go into all the world and make disciples…  and teach them to put into practice, (emphasis again mine) everything I commanded you”?   

Often Christian leaders emphasize the first portion of The Great Commission, but there doesn’t seem to be the same emphasis on the latter portion: teaching disciples to “put truth into practice.”  This raises a question: When we emphasize one part of Scripture to the neglect of other parts, aren’t we in danger of falling into the same error of the first century Jewish elders who missed His First Coming?

Oh that God might raise up modern day “Sons of Issachar” with the ability to understand the times in which we live.  (I Chron. 12:32) Will you join me in praying that God will open our eyes and help us see opportunities to put His truth into practice, thus enabling us to see clearly?  Blessed Advent Season!

Consider making a end of year gift to WDA.  Your gift is tax deductible and most importantly enables our staff to equip people to put Christ’s teachings “into practice” and continue to make mature followers of Christ.

The Christmas I was six we lived in a small white frame house on Washington Road in Augusta, Ga.

It was a scary time of life…my family had just moved from Dallas, Texas to this strange southern city.

Along with that, I started first grade later than all the other kids so I didn’t learn how to correctly pass scissors and I had a new baby sister who got too much of my parent’s attention.

I also had weird nightmares about a tiger getting its middle chewed out.

Washington Road was being widened so there was a ditch the size of the grand canyon in front of our house and we were warned daily about slipping into it and never being able to get out. My brother and I must have been angry a lot, because my mother hung pillows from a tree in the back yard and told us to hit them instead of each other when we got mad.

Our house had a furnace in the hallway and the heat never seemed to get to my bedroom. In the mornings, my brother and I would grab our clothes and run to the heater where it was warm, to get dressed.  Our house was infested with mice, so each day there was a fresh supply of flattened mice in little mousetraps. I lost my first tooth and when it fell out of my mouth it completely disappeared so the tooth fairy couldn’t come.

Yes, it was a scary time.

That is probably why I remember Christmas Eve so well the year I was six years old.

I remember the anticipation of Santa Claus coming and all that it meant; magic, new toys, possibly candy, something special just for me. I lay in bed on Christmas Eve trying to go to sleep but I was just too excited. I kept getting up and getting sent back to bed by my parents. I was so excited I felt like I would explode.

Then I heard it!  The sound of Santa’s sleigh hitting the roof. It was unmistakeable! What should I do? I remember lying in bed paralyzed with excitement and fear at the same time. Suddenly Santa Claus himself appeared in my bedroom door, peeking in to check on me.

Then it was morning. There, under the Christmas Tree was a magical array of toys and gifts that Santa had left. Special gifts for each of us, for me!

When I think back on the year I was six, this is the one event I remember with awe and wonder. In a very scary, very new, very unsettled world, I found hope and wonder in a gift…for me.

The feelings I had at six and the experiences of my world then seem to me a perfect picture of the true Christmas Story. A dark and confusing world, into which God sent His Son, a special gift, just for me…just for you.

My hope for you this Christmas is that you will experience the excitement, fear, awe and wonder of the absolute mystery of God’s gift to you in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.  That you will feel and know His love for you.  That you will be comforted in this dark and confusing world by God’s Son.

Merry CHRISTmas!

 

 

 

 

Just another thing on the list! I could not help but think this as I read the gentle promptings from my communication manager to prepare a yuletide blog.

For some reason I just knew as I listened to Christmas Carols while buying my Thanksgiving turkey that this year was going to end in a fury. Adding one more writing chore was just what I needed!

About that same time my daily reminder went off to let me know my friend Randy Gravitt’s blog for the day had been delivered. As I read through it I was drawn to his reminder:

“On this “First Day of Christmas,” take some time and identify what those few things are that need your attention and then seek to eliminate the distractions.”

These words both comforted and encouraged me. Randy, you know, you are right. Learning to not get “tangled up” in Christmas is just what I want this year.

More time with the kids and less time in the stores. Time away from work, not to plan more work for next year, but rather to count my blessings for this past year. I want to laugh and play and tell my brother that I can still throw a football further than he can.

So this little writing request is my first declaration of my decision to follow Randy’s advice. Rather that try to write something new and pithy I just want to say. “Yeah, what Randy said!” Check out Randy’s complete blog on the 12 days of Christmas at: http://i2ileadership.org/?p=2088

I am thankful that the Lord has blessed him to write what I feel in my heart. My hope for you, and for us all, this Christmas season is to understand that the Love of the Savior is all we need. More time with Him and His most wonderful creation, each other, is what Christmas is really all about.

Luke 2

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Editors Note: if you want to hear the story read by Linus click below!

Consider making a end of year gift to WDA.  Your gift is tax deductible and most importantly enables our staff to equip people to put Christ’s teachings “into practice” and continue to make mature followers of Christ.

My Advent List:

Getting ready for Christmas around our house is a mixture of fun and anxiety. I like pulling out the boxes and rediscovering the decorations. I love how the girls seem to have a particular story with each ornament. We have special ones that we each want to put in a spot on the tree.

This year, Christmas is a bit weird for our family. We have been renting a small apartment as our house remains for sale. So it seems that I have an Advent List too!

        I’m longing for my house to sell.
        I’m longing for a sense of permanence where we can begin to make a home.
        I’m longing for a place for my library so the many books I use and access for ministry are available on a daily basis.
        I’m longing a better home.
        I’m longing for my father’s house and the renewal of all things.

To be honest I have been ok living in our small space. The adventure has been a challenge at times but my family seems to have adapted pretty well. But the thing that keeps us able to live in such close quarters and have a pretty good attitude is the same thing that helps me in my day to day life. This world is not my home.

Now and Not Yet

The Advent Season reminds me that there is an incompleteness in this life that can only be met in believing in the gospel. Theologians talk about a phrase, ‘now and not yet.’ The person who trusts Christ for salvation receives new life now. The now part is my standing before my Heavenly Father, who made peace with my rebellious heart by Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus’ death, a once and for all event, was a payment for my sin and also gave me his goodness. I not only stand forgiven but I am seen as holy in God’s eyes!

The Not Yet part of Salvation is that while I am declared “right” with God, I still live in this world, “tempted, tried and sometimes failing.” I long for the return of Christ and this event has not happened yet! So Advent season isn’t just for Christmas time after all!

Each person who knows Christ must take time to enter in to the pain of their own depravity, the brokenness of this world and the realization that we face a enemy who steals joy and blinds our eyes to hope.

Advent is a season of longing. Advent is a time for us to plead, Come Lord Jesus! Come Oh, Come Emmanuel. Jesus, give us an awareness of our need for you each day that helps us live at once in the tension of the Now and Not Yet. Help us to pray for your coming and restoration. Help us to long for things to be better here and work to bring your Kingdom as our lives and the lives of others are brought from a place of brokenness to a place of ongoing restoration.

Take time to stop before the Christmas Rush takes over.
Take time to listen and spend time in the word, journalling and prayer.
Talk to God about those deep longings, the places in your life that need healing and restoring and ask him to show you how the Gospel brings you hope that can be found in no other.
Pray for opportunities to share with someone else how Jesus is the solution for our deepest longings.

Here are some lyrics by Matthew Smith -from the Christmas Compilation Your King Has Come –

Your King has Come

“There was a man named Simeon
He was righteous and devout
His Faith it did not waiver
This man had no doubt
But he cried to God “When will you reconcile yourself to man”
The Spirit moved him to the temple courts where he met the Great I AM.

Rejoice, Rejoice Emmanuel
Your King has come to you O Israel
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Has come to thee, O Israel

Sovereign Lord as you have promised
Dismiss your servant now in peace
For my eyes have seen your salvation, now joy will never cease
A light of revelation to the Gentiles, this little baby will be
Your people Israel will be glorified, I see Emmanuel in front of me

Rejoice, Rejoice Emmanuel
Your King has come to you O Israel
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Has come to thee, O Israel

We no longer have to worry, salvation’s not a distant hope
For God has done what He had said he would, sin’s license has been revoked
Death no longer has its power, the serpent’s head has been crushed
Don’t wait another hour and see dust return to dust

But instead…(chorus)

Rejoice, Rejoice Emmanuel
Your King has come to you O Israel
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Has come to thee, O Israel

O Come O Come Emmanuel

Words and music by Matthew Smith
Get the Music at Bandcamp –
http://matthewsmith.bandcamp.com/album/your-king-has-come

For more information about following Christ this season consider reading the Christmas story from the gospels.
Here are the texts you can begin with:
Matthew Chapter 1
Luke Chapter 2