Tuesday, December 23, 2014

His Gift

Christmas is here and I've invested good time in preparing for the holiday celebration with cooking, cleaning, setting tables and wrapping gifts .  I'm enjoying the blessings God has given, but my mind has been fixed on something better than the temporal things.  My mind is set on The Gift, Jesus Christ.    

Today as I wrapped things I made and purchased, my heart was filled with joy because of the gift that God gave to all of us even before He founded the world.  Sure, we know that it was approximately two-thousand years ago that Christ actually came to that stable, but it was long before that that He'd determined to come, and it was just a matter of His timing before He actually arrived.  What an amazingly expensive gift He gave!   Truly it was the most costly and elaborate gift ever given.  The Lord of All gave up His heavenly abode and condescended to earth making Himself a lowly babe of plain birth.  And this was determined to be before the foundations of the world!  He knowingly made you and I and all that is, with the  complete understanding that His love for us would demand this very costly sacrifice.  Isn't that astounding?  I'm am just in awe! 

I've seen how easily the hearts of mankind are drawn to inferior things.  As humans created with a greater purpose, people long for the deepest Love, yet they often settle for the cheapest of thrills.   From things like a short substance high, a cheap sexual thrill, an illusive moment of revenge, romance, victory or conquest, maybe it's as simple as that good feeling of personal accomplishment.  No matter what it is, it will never satisfy.  This is because you and I were created for an entirely different purpose than personal glorification.  We were created to glorify God alone.  And our hearts long for what can only be found in the worship of Jesus Christ.  

When we get our eyes fixed on temporal things, we are bound over to failed expectations and disappointment.  Often confusion and depression can set in when the things we reach for so passionately are ripped from our grasp.  

Hebrews 3:1 
 "Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest."  

The things of the world, including the "wisdom" it has to offer are worthless things.  We are encouraged then, to fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the greatest gift ever given.   

As you celebrate Christmas this year let the worldly things diminish in your affections.  Enjoy the gifts God has given you, but do not let those gifts or their giving usurp the rightful place of exaltation that Jesus deserves in your heart.  If you fix your eyes on Jesus, the blessings God gives will have their proper place, and the passions that try to war against you will be powerless to overcome you.   

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In the "No"

Currently my life is filled with peace and joy. Nearly every day I wake up to a hand massage from my loving husband, a steamy cup of coffee and quiet-time for bible reading while my very well behaved children get ready for class and begin their studies. These are just a few of the luxuries that I enjoy. Some call me blessed. Others call me spoiled. I call me extremely grateful.

I have lived long enough to become acquainted with sorrow as well as joy. Through all of life, God has been with me. It may be easy for a man who has not studied God's word thoroughly to conclude that his good life is evidence of God's favor and approval, and that a man's ill fate in life is evidence of God's disapproval. Much of the world believes in this sort of "Karma". And while I do believe God when He says that we reap what we sow, I do not believe it's quite like "Karma". I believe what I've witnessed in both scripture and real life, that while I live and praise God both "good" things and "bad" things may come just like in the life of Job.

I know that God holds my life in His hands and that even in times of suffering and hardship, He may be bringing eternal blessing to my soul. Though the enemy may intend my suffering for evil, God intends it for good. Anyone who reads the book of Job (specifically chapter 33) should come away with the knowledge that affliction readies the heart for surrender. Though a man may feel righteous and just, God's ways are so much higher than our own, that it is nothing for Him to humble us and impart wisdom not only through dreams and visions, but also through suffering in order to "turn a man aside from his conduct" or "keep man from pride".

Job 33:29
"Behold, God does all these oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life."

The book of Job resonates strongly with me. It isn't the typical scenario of a "love story", but to me, it is one of the greatest love stories of all time. In it we see a righteous man afflicted by God's permissive will and Satan's malicious hand. The majority of Job's friends preach at him the sort of "Karma" I mentioned earlier, insisting that there must be some intentional and hidden sin in his life that warranted God's afflicting hand upon him. But throughout the book, Job goes toe to toe with his accusers maintaining his heart of integrity. It isn't until Elihu speaks, then God, that the point of Job's suffering is made clear. And in the end, both Job and his friends are left humbled before God for His righteousness. And God is shown to be supremely merciful and loving. This is as it should be in our own lives.

Like Job, being steadfast in our trust of God brings us the same peace that caused Job to refrain from cursing Him as his foolish wife suggested. Job repented in sack cloth and ashes, calling out to God yet even though he was given no answer for several days and lost everything dear to him, he still praised God. It is easy to exclaim with joy when our prayers are answered with the obvious "yes", but Job demonstrated that we can exclaim with joy and faith even when the answer is "no". He called out to God for relief, and it did not immediately come. He asked for answers, yet was made to wait and endure many words of foolish counsel. All through this he praised God and honored Him.

When I pray, I am often reminded of Job and Elihu. Wisdom is found in surrender, even in the heart of suffering, and my heart is filled with praise to my faithful God, because He is worthy to be praised both in the "yes" and in the "no".