Monday, December 23, 2019

Who Worships a Baby?

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

So who really worships a baby? These were grown, educated men who fell down in the presence of the infant Jesus. When this Scripture was read aloud, I had to wonder at the freedom and devotion that moved the magi to worship Jesus. They did not worship out of forced submission or acquiescence. Their worship was not grudging, resentful, or jealous. The worship of the magi was costly in time, money, and effort; lavish expression and absolute disregard for self-exaltation.

The price only began to reflect the worth of Jesus. They had no way of knowing, no way of comprehending the value of Christ. None of us does. God in flesh? Who can fully comprehend it? Perhaps they were resting on this promise:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

This--this is what brings worship, praise, and adoration. Jesus became a man. God in flesh dwelt among us. Incomparable. Unfathomable. The omnipotent One: Almighty. The omniscient One: all knowing. The omnipresent One now, by choice, limited to a human vessel. Good. Always, wholly good. Light, without even a shadow of darkness. Love that encompasses and redeems the guilty. Grace personified. This One chose to come to us. Confined to a physical vessel in a world ruled by His supreme, unseen enemy, Jesus would experience and walk among His creation. Unheard of!

He would then give Himself over to be wrongly charged, beaten, abused, spat upon and gruesomely executed, receiving in His spirit God's judgment and wrath for the sin of the world. We cannot begin to bear the weight of our own sin, how can we begin to understand Jesus' love for us?

This is who the Magi worshiped. This is who we worship. A baby? Briefly. And in that wee One was the promise of eternity, the life of God eternal, the hope of the world. He was worthy of the magi's adoration. He is worthy--worthy of more than we could ever bring or hope to entrust to His care. That is why we worship. Knowledge of the Holy One moves us to trust and obedience. Who am I to know or say what is just, right and good? Absolute? In the presence of Majesty, I loose my hold, my demands for my desires, my way, my limited ability to know what is best. I bow, submit, and confidently place my heart and life at the feet of the Master.

There is liberty in acknowledging Christ and my rightful place. There is joy, peace, contentment, grace--all the good and none of the bad. Worshiping Jesus is a win-win. Dying to self and receiving His payment for my sin--as one little girl said, is "too good to be true." The only thing I have to lose is myself, my desire for sin, destruction, madness, and folly.

Where is your worship today? You and I always worship something. May we, like the magi, give of ourselves--uninhibited, unhindered, unreservedly.

He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (Colossians 1:15-23)

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Value of Dependence

We get caught up in our own everyday lives and seldom see past the end of our own nose. Jesus knew that. He knew the heart of man, the thoughts of man, the tendencies of man. We simply don't get it. That's why it's such a miracle when God reveals what's there but beyond our grasp. We won't see it, we won't see the truth of who God is in and through it, apart from His help.

"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

Did you get that? You're not hot stuff. I'm not hot stuff. We don't "got this." Jesus does. When I have a revelation into God and His character, it's not about me, it's about Him. It's not my insight and wisdom, it's His. If I have come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, it's not because I'm an outstanding individual or have something to offer. Jesus had just said,

“I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight."

Jesus thanked God that we are not wise or intelligent. Instead, those of us who see, know and come to Him are "nepios," infants; children. If you "get" God, that describes you. God is pleased when we see our need, rely and depend on Him, cry out to Him, call on Him, rest in Him. He is actually not impressed with individuals who are characterized by taking care of their own problems their own way. God is not impressed with clever people, hard-working people, or problem solvers. He responds to those who cannot. Who see and admit to their limitations and ask Him for the grace to accept His hand and purpose in and through infirmity.

That's the beauty of Jesus' birth. In the art that abounds this time of year we see the Madonna figure with the Christ child. Jesus was dependent. His birth in a cattle stall was humble: Jesus never had a place of His own. He was constantly dependent on others--first His parents, then those who followed Him (including women) and provided for His needs.

The story of Christmas, the revelation of Jesus Christ, is not about insight or character. It's about innocence, desperation, and dependence.

How dependent are you today?

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life... (Philippians 2:5-16)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Look What's Coming!

This last summer we took on a large remodeling project in which we removed part of the house--the kitchen, laundry room, and family entry--and rebuilt it. During that time we learned to be flexible and go about everyday tasks differently.

Now we're back in the house and I'm enjoying a larger, warmer kitchen. Yesterday I expressed gratitude to God for things like a dryer vent that doesn't snake through the crawl space and clothes that dry rapidly, for heat that touches my toes when I stand at the kitchen sink, for being able to set down packages inside the back door.

There are areas of the addition we haven't moved into yet, but I can easily imagine. Our bedroom closet, circa 1911, is the size of a coat closet the two of us share. The process of choosing, removing, and replacing clothes is the same, but the ease of a walk-in closet is exhilarating. Isn't it the same with Heaven? So many of the tasks and people we enjoy that are tainted with sin, will repeat themselves in glory without blemish. Can you imagine?

Can you imagine singing in the congregation of saints? Voices so strong yours is lost in the melody of lives saved from abuse, torture, loneliness, grief, and sin-sick bodies to praise our King? Can you imagine living the truth of God's Word and precepts without a hint of self? Free from bondage to personal desires, longings, and demons? Above all, can you imagine the very real, enfolding presence of our precious Lord, in glorified flesh, for eternity? We experience His presence in the person of His Spirit and Word, but to see Him, touch Him, hear and speak to Him personally? We can only imagine.

Today, when sin makes life difficult, once you're done complaining and groaning, take a moment to praise God for what's in store. It's exhilarating! Thoughts of eternity give us fuel, courage, and love to move forward in spite of wickedness, self, and sin. They move us to share and live out our confidence before others as a gift and ministry. It's not ours alone. It's meant to be shared.

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:5-18)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Faith: When I Disagree

A few different thoughts have been going through my head lately. Here are a couple. If anything strikes your fancy and you'd like to hear more, send a comment or let me know.

1) Faith isn't faith if I agree with God. Instead, my faith is tested when I disagree or don't understand and I obey anyway: i.e. Abraham offering Isaac on the altar.

2) My response to Jesus reveals much. While the unclean spirits told Jesus to leave them alone and depart, the crowds sought him even in desolate places.

3) I have been much more aware lately of how much worry is created by fear of being inconvenienced. In the end, I will lose nothing more than comfort, but that seems to be the end goal--and I find it sad that my desire is so fleeting and empty compared to what God has in store through difficulty, inefficiency, and inconvenience.

Here is a list of bullet points re: faith, (I am lacking creativity, time, and prose this morning):

  • Abraham rose early the next morning, (He didn't wait. He didn't barter. He got up and went.) Genesis 22:3
  • He split wood, took 2 servants and his son and went to the place God told Him (note: He didn't choose a "better" place or one that suited his idea of a good idea. He went exactly where God told Him to go.) Genesis 22:3
  • Abraham told the young men, "we will worship and return to you" (He did not think less of God; He trusted God to spare his son because God has promised and delivered Isaac once--he was the promised son. Abraham believed the impossible--"that God is able to raise people even from the dead," Hebrews 12:19.) Genesis 22:5
  • Abraham put God's plan into action (He did not waver or change God's revealed plan; he obeyed completely) Genesis 22:6
  • Even in the midst of conflicting emotions and circumstances, Abraham believed God would provide ("Where is the lamb?" "God will provide for son.") Genesis 22:7-8
  • Abraham acts in apparent conflict with the character of God to do the will of God: "Abraham bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar...stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son" Genesis 22:9-10.
  • Abraham expected God's intervention. When God called, "Abraham, Abraham!" he said, "Here I am." Genesis 22:11.  (How very different than Adam and Even's response to God's call, "Where are you?" Genesis 3:9)
  • Abraham looked for and applied God's solution. (When God intervened, Abraham looked, went up and took the ram, offering it in place of his son. God's solution required action, effort, and sweat-equity, but provision was generously, miraculously supplied) Genesis 22:13.
  • Abraham's response was not one of resentment, but worship. (He had seen God in a new, amazing, personal way and he now called God by a a new name, "Jehovah Jireh," the Lord will provide.) Genesis 22:13-14
  • Abraham, and all the nations, were blessed as a result of his faith and God's provision. Genesis 22:16-18