Truth’s Table

Day 19 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Waiting with Wisdom

By: Christina Edmondson

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield

Down by the riverside

Down by the riverside

Down by the riverside

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield

Down by the riverside

I'm gonna study, study, war no more

I ain't gonna study war no more

Ain't gonna study war no more

If you have ever taken an Introduction to Psychology Course you might recall the marshmallow study. Conducted in the 1960s by some Stanford University professors, the study sought to examine the factors that cause some children either to immediately take the offered single marshmallow or agree to wait for the time-delayed two marshmallows. Subsequently, all kinds of versions of these tests were executed, including longitudinal studies looking to see if the ability to self-soothe the impulse of taking the first presented reward would produce higher functioning adults.

However, the truth is all studies are subject to cultural assumptions and biases. So it is not surprising that the study missed some of the factors outside of impulse control and character that would make a child prefer the guaranteed now reward to the unseen future reward. In other words, delayed gratification may not be an adaptive response in a cruel and uncertain environment where tomorrow’s meal or safety is not guaranteed. To the extent that a child (or an adult for the matter) feels that the promised unseen “two marshmallows” will arrive, they are likely to delay instant gratification for the future greater treat.  Finally, another factor that impacted ability to “delay gratification” was the age of the child. Older children were more likely to pass on the first option and wait for the two marshmallow treat.

We can look back and ask ourselves is this really a test about delayed gratification and self-control, or rather a test of confidence in the future to come? Maybe, it is both?

Seems like those of us who are waiting on the soon-returning King might be able to relate to this study. First, confidence and trust in the giver of the reward, including our witness to His faithfulness, grows our ability to wait on future promises. Second, Christian maturity allows us to forgo the award of now for the greater award to come. Our maturity grows as we reverence the Lord and obey His word. Wisdom then is sown into us and reaps a harvest of greater patience and trust in the greater reward to come, Jesus Christ.

Here is a question for us to consider. Are you waiting with wisdom for the returning King? To answer this, let’s briefly reflect on two passages that speak to wisdom.

Proverbs 4:6

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.

James 3:13-17

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

First, the Proverbs passage uses anthropomorphic language to describe wisdom. Having spent the last couple of days reflecting on God’s mercy to Mary, I am struck by just how much wisdom sounds like a mother. It reminds me of the beginning of Proverbs 31 (the part people usually skip). Reflect on the words of King Lemuel’s wise mother.  She provides wisdom designed to protect him from risky choices (“stop all that drinking unless you forget you are King and deprive the oppressed of their rights!”). She has plenty to say about his relationships and the community he will serve. Momma is clear with her son that he must prioritize the poor, destitute and voiceless. Finally, she schools him on qualities of a “good women.” Likely, somebody like her.  

The truth is we all don’t have wise mothers and some of us are moms who don’t always feel very wise. However, the failings of our earthly parents only serve as a striking contrast to the excellency of our greater Parent, God the Father. God is infinitely wise and so gracious that we have the Word of wisdom with us. In Scripture, God lifts up wisdom like that of a beloved mother’s teachings to protect us, shape us, and even cause us to bless those who we will serve.

We need God’s wisdom while we wait, Sisters. We need the sure Word of God to help us to resist the lesser things and rewards while we wait.

Secondly, in the New Testament, we find James asking a necessary question. This is a question that will help us to assess to the extent we are wisely waiting on the King. James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”

While we might be inclined to answer hastily and say, “I am, brother James!”—we might want to wait to hear the full description of wisdom.

First, James contrasts two types of wisdom. One, is “earthly, unspiritual and demonic”; the other is “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”  While we wait, we are compelled to model a wisdom marked with truthfulness. The Scripture says that wisdom starts there with what is pure. This is important because often truth-tellers are asked to stop saying the truth and simply appear pleasant. But pleasantries without truthfulness is deception. With that being said, truthfulness without all the other following characteristics lacks love of neighbor and obedience to God. True wisdom seeks authentic unity with purifying truth. It leans into reason with ears open. This wisdom is obvious, orthodoxy (right thinking) and orthopraxy (right living) walk hand in hand. Finally, wisdom is not two-faced but rather authentic and committed to “treating everybody right.”

All of these qualities highlight what James refers to as “the meekness of wisdom.” Remember the meek are far from weak, but rather they are restrained. The meek hold power and insight that stands at attention, ready when the time is right to come forth. In other words, the meek can say I will pass on what looks like accessible pleasure, reward, or even a verbal rebuttal for the greater and ever-satisfying joy to come. God is requiring that we demonstrate the meekness of wisdom because He does. Jesus embodies this very ideal every time we see Him restraining the fullness of His glory, brilliance and power to draw near to us with the witness of His sacrifice, humility and undying love. The meek servant is returning as the victorious King.

 

After considering these passages, we can communally acknowledge that we fall woefully short of this level of wisdom. I am left thanking God for the sufficiency of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. I am left feeling grateful that Christ speaks for me even now. However, the Holy Spirit continues the work of sanctification by leading us to love what God loves, hating our own sins and seeking after more of God’s wisdom.

Y’all, it is hard to pass on what seems like the sure thing at the moment. Life is hard. Self-control seems difficult to exercise and wisdom is lacking in a world of lies. Some days you get bad news. Heck, some years you get bad news. It takes deep confidence in the promises of God and not just will-power or behavior modification to wait wisely to pass on what the world says is good, wise and ready for what God promises in the end.  The wise woman knows that God’s promises and blessed return is truly worth of the wait.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What type of wisdom impresses me?

  2. How much do I trust the promises of God and I am willing to wait on the greater reward?

  3. Who are and were the wise women in my life? Thank God for their wisdom, and if possible thank them personally for following in the ways of King Lemuel’s mother.

Song of Praise

“Lord Prepare Me” by West Angeles COGIC Choir


Day 18 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Waiting for a Prince While Waiting for the King?

By: Christina Edmondson

Full confession: I am one of “those women,” and you can keep your judgment in your pocket.

I squealed at the news of Meghan Merkle’s engagement to Prince Harry and nearly lost my whole mind viewing pictures of Queen Serena Williams at her fairytale-esque wedding. 2017 was a heck of a year and along with prayer, chocolate and humor, one-dimensional romances served as a great distraction. So, I have watched a movie or two about some dashing prince marrying a smart/sensible women. She has “the career,” humor and authenticity, which is why when she appears in the rose garden or at the top of the steps entering the grand ball everything stops to honor her flawless entrance.  Do you remember Prince Hakeem going to Queens, NY to find his future queen, the lovely Lisa? It looks like all is lost when Hakeem is snatched up to return back to marry a bride of his father’s choosing but surprise ending…there is Lisa in her blush pink tulle dress to save the day.

While this is not the story for all women or maybe even most, I imagine that there are some who find themselves either waiting for a “prince” or grieving the loss of one. “Single and saved” black women can find themselves bombarded with accurate and inaccurate reports of the availability of marriageable men, for example.  It is likely we know someone grieving the idea of marriage, family, or whatever is in their storybook…good stuff that’s not always guaranteed. Good stuff that might become even more out of reach because of personal, social and systemic sins.

I want to humbly offer a couple of lessons I am learning from a prince-less widow awaiting the true King found in Scripture.

Luke 2:27-38

When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

    you may now dismissyour servant in peace.

30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the

redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke chapter 2 introduces us to two older saints at the temple. We hear the words of Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man who encounters the young Jesus. Simeon is beside himself and declares the far reaching cross-cultural implications of Jesus’ reign. Jesus will be a light to the Gentiles and glory to his people, Israel. Simeon prophesies the pain Mary would suffer at the cross.  Finally, he is so struck by this encounter that he basically says, “God, you can come get me now!”

Now, contrast this with Anna’s experience. The text shortly follows Simeon’s interaction with Jesus’ family with details regarding the life of the prophet. One would think that Luke would highlight the words of the prophet and the life of the devout man but that’s not what happens here in his account. We see the reverse of this, and that draws us in. It is the life of Anna and not just her words that point to Christ.

Anna has lived most of her life as a widow. Several decades. After seven years of marriage, her husband died.

Anna spends her days about her Father’s business in a way that most of us cannot imagine. Well, I will just speak for myself. I hate fasting and there are seasons of my life where I struggle to pray. Real talk. Yet, Anna cultivates a life so entrenched with worship that Jesus shows up and meets her at the temple.

Jesus will meet us in our worship and give us a true cause to speak.Anna uses her words to point outside of herself to a people needing redemption. The earnest Simeon believes he is done his journey but after seeing Jesus, Anna starts a new one. Anna sees a people needing redemption as greater than her needing a new life, a prince or a ticket out of here. She has been fasting and praying for decades and doesn’t ask for a thing when Jesus actually shows up!Maybe, it’s because, whether we know it or not, Jesus himself is the answer to all of our prayers.

Seeing Jesus gives Anna her new marching orders, and while she might live in a world like us with little value for old widowed women, this prophet has something to declare. Anna’s words are of the hope about the King of redemption.

During advent we cultivate a spirit of holy expectation. As we move towards the remembrance of Christ incarnation and birth we become hopeful even in suffering unwanted singleness, grief or uncertainty. This King who meets us now in worship is coming again. In the meantime, like Anna, let’s become reinvigorated when He shows up at the temple. Sisters, there is nothing wrong with wanting good things, including a prince, a promotion or a clear path.

But, let’s be real.

Only the King can bring justice to systemic sin. Only the King can deliver and cleanse us from our sins. Only the King can produce the true happily ever after.

Today’s Reflection Questions:

  1. How do I communicate to my good desires that I value the coming King even more?

  2. What is the worshipful work that the Lord would have me to do while I wait for earthly good things and the great King?

  3. How can I encourage and serve my sisters who are experiencing days, years and decades of waiting for good things?

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, for meeting bereaved women at the temple, ashamed women at the well and dismissed women at the tomb. Ultimately, You continue to meet women dead in sin and bring them to new life. You show up in our worship and provide us with purpose. Today, I am mindful and grateful for women like dear my mother-in-law, a worshipping widow. By Your Spirit You have strengthened her song, and while she misses her prince you point her to the most worthy King. This makes her an even more excellent prophetic voice and witness to Your redemptive work. I am grateful for the witness of my saved, single and celibate sisters who demonstrate obedience to Your commands and delight in You. Help all of us encourage the women in our lives who find themselves longing for lost or unfulfilled good things. Forgive us and sustain us when we falter. May we all delight in the answered prayer that You are enough while we wait. Amen


Songs of Mediation and Praise:

“They That Wait On The Lord” by The Georgia Mass Choir

“They That Wait” by Fred Hammond and John P Kee

Day 14 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Jesus Coming

By: Ekemini Uwan

I may be just a foolish dreamer

But I don't care

'Cause I know my happiness is waiting out there somewhere

I'm searching for that silver lining

Horizons that I've never seen

Oh I'd like to take just a moment and dream my dream

Ohhh Dream my dream

Commodores

“Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). How is your eyesight? Has cynicism clouded your vision? Have delays of the certain things you hope for eclipsed your view of the unseen? Fighting for joy and hope while waiting in faith for God to fulfill His promises of justice and other blessings is difficult. Undoubtedly, the longer the delay, the more hopelessness lurks around the corner seeking to vanquish the mustard seed of faith we so desperately cling to.

Given the ubiquity of racial oppression, anti-blackness, and injustices committed against our people in the Diaspora, the future glory promised in the book of Revelation seems like it will never be ours. Jazmine Headley knows this all too well, as she experienced the trauma of having her one-year old son ripped from her arms by the police. Her crime: Jazmine sat on the floor of the food stamp office as she waited to be seen by an office clerk because all the seats were taken. Jazmine was taken into custody at Rikers Island. Sistas, when we are inundated with news of state-sanctioned violence against our people, there is a real and present temptation to lose heart and faith in Christ by turning to idols and other gods, thereby forsaking the faith.

Read: Jeremiah 2:12-13

In this portion of Scripture, the Spirit of Christ, through the prophet Jeremiah, is calling the heavens as a witness against Israel for their apostasy. Living water is a metaphor for eternal life and spiritual sustenance that God alone can provide, while the broken cisterns represent the idols people chase after. Though the word “thirsty” is not explicitly mentioned in the passage, it is alluded to implicitly; the word connotes a craving, and or a strong desire. We see a people—not unlike ourselves—enslaved by their lustful craving for other gods and their desire to be god, as evidenced by their actions. Their unholy thirst led them to make broken cisterns in a futile effort to satisfy their thirst apart from the true and Living God.

When we recall the circumstances of Christ’s Advent, God’s miraculous work in the lives of Elizabeth and Mary ought to hearten us as we await His soon return. Life is hard and the road to glory is paved with suffering, but the grace of God will always outrun the suffering we experience in the present. Sistas, fight with everything that is within you to keep standing firm in the faith. Jesus is our great High Priest and He empathizes with our sufferings (Heb. 4:15). Keep your eyes on Him as you walk the path He set before you. Jesus comin’.

Prayer

Father, we need your grace to keep us on the narrow path that leads to life. The suffering and temptations we face in this life are many and great. You know our frame and you remember that we are dust. We have a hard time seeing beyond what is in front of us. Give us the eyes of faith that see clearly the certain things that are unseen. Be glorified in our lives as we await Christ’s return. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Songs:

Zoom, Commodores

Jesus Children of America, Robert Glasper

Jesus Coming, Rapsody

Have Faith in Me, Kim Burrell

Day 10 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Solidaric Infancy

By: Ekemini Uwan

“And I thank you for choosing me

To come through unto life to be

A beautiful reflection of His grace

See I know that a gift so great

Is only one God could create

And I'm reminded every time I see your face.”

Lauryn Hill

King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Alpha and Omega, Lion and the Lamb, Wonderful Counselor, the Son of God, Immanuel, Second Person of the Trinity—these are only a few of the titles that describe our Lord Jesus Christ. All of that plus sinless humanity made up the constitution of Baby Jesus. In jest, people often say, “Thank you, Baby Jesus.” But have you ever stopped to consider why the Savior of the World came as an infant?

Undoubtedly, babies are the most vulnerable people in society. They are dependent upon their parents to carry, clothe, feed, clean, nurture and care for them in every way. Why would the God of the universe come to us in such a vulnerable package? Scripture answers saying, “…he had to be made like them in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).

As I reflect on how infant Jesus came through His mother’s birth canal like the rest of humanity, I’m reminded of the fact that "Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants." My mind also recalls the unborn babies of Flint, Michigan who traveled the same course, but came into this world dead on arrival. Cause of death: greed at the hands of politicians who willfully contaminated the city’s water supply with lead and other toxins out of concern for Flint’s bottomline, over against the lives of its residents. Leaving their mothers reeling after suffering miscarriages and holding their stillborn babies in their arms. Intractable sorrow has made a home in their hearts, evicting the unspeakable joy that once resided there.

How does Jesus’ infancy relate to Black infant mortality rates and the stillborn babies of Flint?  

Read: Matthew 2:1-18

This passage makes it clear that Herod was intent on killing Baby Jesus. The threat was so imminent that an angel of the Lord went to Joseph in a dream to warn him to take Mary and Baby Jesus to Egypt and remain there until Herod’s death. Lamentably, the male children slaughtered in Bethlehem were the victims of state-sanctioned violence at the hands of Herod. From infancy, Jesus lived under the threat of death; and while it’s true that He came to earth to die for the sins of the world, Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again...” (John 10:18).

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), which includes deliverance from personal sin and the tyrannical reign of sin that manifests itself in anti-black oppression, like white supremacy and the environmental racism that snatched the lives of the babies in Flint while in the womb. Jesus Christ was made like us in every respect, so that He would share in a solidaric bond with all of humanity, including the stillborn babies of Flint. The blood of these innocent ones cry out for vengeance from the One who judges righteously. The weight of the wait during this Advent season is unbearable in light of the injustices that abound, but the Judge of all the earth shall do right (Gen. 18:25).

Prayer

Father,

We join our grief with the mothers of Flint who gave birth to stillborn babies and suffered miscarriages because the water supply that is suppose to sustain life brought forth death. We weep for the dead infants of Black mothers, who themselves, went to the precipice of death to give life only to hold their lifeless child in their arms. Our souls cry out against this evil! We lament the wickedness and the lovelessness that led to the Flint crisis in the first place. We pray that you would execute your justice now, in this present evil age, and we pray for the strength of the organizers and activists on the ground who are working to make your justice a reality. Comfort those who are grieving the deaths of loved ones who died from this crisis and give the people of Flint full access to clean water. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Songs:

Zion, Lauryn Hill

Sweet Little Jesus Boy, Mahalia Jackson

Dear God 2.0, The Roots

The Mystery of Iniquity, Lauryn Hill

 


Day 9 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

The Departed, Discarded Ones

By: Ekemini Uwan

“There is a woman in Somalia

Scraping for pearls on the roadside

There's a force stronger than nature

Keeps her will alive

This is how she's dying

She's dying to survive

Don't know what she's made of

I would like to be that brave.”

Sade

Advent means “arrival,” an “appearing” or “coming” into a place, and we have been reflecting on the glory of Christ’s first Advent, which began with His incarnation. We, children of God, join our eager anticipation along with all the saints worldwide who await the Second Advent of King Jesus, when He will consummate His kingdom.

As we wait, the groans of our souls resonate with the groans of creation; together we yearn for redemption (Rom. 8:22, 23). Sorrowful yet always rejoicing. This is the disposition to which we have been called, sistas. The tension of the “already, not yet” is palpable for me during this Advent season.

As I reflect with joy about Christ’s Advent, I can’t help but to think about its inverse, the departed, discarded ones. Precious children of the African Diaspora who won’t see this advent because their lives were cut off due to anti-Black oppression and state-sanctioned violence. Chinedu Okobi was a thirty-six year old Nigerian-American man, who was a father, a poet, a son, a brother, and an uncle. He was tased to death by sheriff deputies in San Mateo, California, as he shouted, “What have I done?” He was in the midst of a mental health crisis. Instead of getting the care he desperately needed, he was tased like a rabid animal.

My soul cries out!

Never forget about these precious souls, twenty-six Nigerian girls between the ages of 14-18 left their native land seeking asylum in Europe through Libya. Young girls boarded those rubber dinghies with hopes and dreams of a better life stuffed in their invisible knapsacks—only to have their dreams dashed the moment they were wrangled into a sex trafficking ring. Although their fate was grim, the audacity of hope carried them as they traversed the troubled waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The journey proved too much for them, as it had for so many before them: the waters engulfed them, snuffing out their lives along with their dreams. Twenty-six lifeless, nameless Black bodies of image-bearers, buried in a foreign land, far away from home and no family members to claim them.

My soul cries out!

Who will weep for these Black Lives discarded like the refuse of the world?

I know the One who has wept over the deaths of these precious ones, Jesus Christ.

Read: John 11:32-36

There was a time when death did not loom over our heads, but the entrance of sin changed the course of human history (Gen. 3), and now we must face this last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). This is the world into which Jesus entered, to do away with sin and death, in order to bring it to its consummate end (Rev. 21:4).

He is moved in spirit and greatly troubled. This Scripture is not describing some fleeting emotion. Quite the contrary, Jesus is deeply sorrowful and angry at the evil of death. Jesus, full of sorrow and anger, was moved internally and physically. Compassion has legs, and it moves toward those who are suffering.  This is a beautiful picture of Christ’s divinity and humanity—His transcendence, and His immanence. He asked where they laid him, because He is God, and the only One who can raise Lazarus from the dead.

His humanity is overlaid upon the backdrop of His divinity, and its radiance is more glorious than a shooting star sweeping across the onyx sky. The One who had the power to keep Lazarus from the pangs of death is now crying in the wake of His friend’s departure and the suffering of those left behind. Now we await Christ’s Second Advent, when the dead will be raised, some to eternal life and others to judgment (John 5:25-29).

  He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Come quickly!

Prayer

Father, things are not as they should be in this world. The rich oppress the poor. The powerful lord it over the powerless. Those who have sworn to protect and serve are quick to shed the blood of my people. God, as we look back at Christ’s Advent and look forward to His second arrival, give Your justice to the widows and the orphans. Grant us a foretaste of justice as a sign of the peace and sinless life we will enjoy in the eschaton. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Songs:

The Place, Shekinah Glory

Telephone, Erykah Badu

Pearls, Sade