What About Peace On Earth?

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:14

Songs have been written about peace at Christmastime and greeting card companies have used the quote to promote wishes for peace to all who receive their card.  It’s nice to wish someone we care about a peaceful life but is this what the angels meant when they made this announcement?

If they had just declared ‘peace on earth’, it might have been easier to misconstrue.  But the phrase ‘peace among men with whom He is pleased’ changes everything.

This phrase is connected to an event in Jesus’ life when God the Father made a pronouncement of His own.  When Jesus was being baptized, His Father’s voice was heard, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”  So to whom will peace come?  To those with whom the Father is pleased.  The conditions for pleasing the Father are to love His Son, to embrace Him as Savior, and to live a life of obedience, just as Jesus did.

 For every person who does this, there is peace with God.  The birth of Jesus and the mission He came to fulfill made this peace possible because sin was dealt with on Calvary.  This sentiment from the angels can not be misconstrued to mean that, in 2022, the world will be a more peaceful place.  It won’t.  Times here will only prove more perilous until Jesus comes back and the prophecies from scripture continue to play out.  While that may sound grim, God’s plan moves along according to God’s timetable, leading us to the day when Jesus will reign on earth and we will enjoy peace – internally and externally – for the first time.

For every one of us who are citizens of heaven today, who have made peace with God through Christ, peace starts now.  It reigns in the heart of all those who have asked Jesus to bear the Father’s wrath in our place.  That’s what He came to do.  A birth in a crude stable setting was to usher in a peace-making mission.  So to all of you who are in Christ today, I send a heartfelt greeting.  “Rest in the peace of forgiven sins.  Rest in the peace that exists between you and the Father.  Jesus came to win it for us – and hand it to us on the other side of the cross.”

If you are well pleased with me, it is only because my righteousness was a gift from You, Jesus.  Thank you for peace the world does not understand.  Amen

The Agony of Waiting

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. Psalm 13:1-2,5

The theme of waiting saturates the whole redemption story. God waited a long time to send a Savior after the fall of Adam and Eve. Did they look for Jesus after they were banished from the garden? If they understood the prophetic words God spoke over them, they did. They had known the love of the Father in the garden and though the consequences of their sin were staggering, I’ve no doubt they knew that God would come to save.

In their lifetime however, He didn’t come. Though He made a way for their sins to be covered through the sacrifice of innocent animals, it wasn’t the same as a Savior coming to take away their sin and restore them to paradise. In fact, things just got worse. Their descendants saw evil compounded. The god of this world took center stage as He appeared to be the one who controlled everything. Where was God? Where was the promised Savior?

‘How long, O Lord?’ was the cry of the ages. Injustice, suffering, and the havoc created by an enemy who relished destruction  appeared to have the last word as God’s people waited for their Messiah. It appeared that He was late and uncaring. Their lament through the ages filled His ears but so did their well-ordered proclamations of faith. They endured the scourges of many enemies and captivity in Babylon. They saw the destruction of their beautiful temple, waited four hundred more years through an interminable period of silence, and then bent under the weight of Roman rule before Jesus finally came. Their cries for rescue were so desperate that they couldn’t recognize the Miracle when He arrived. Never could they guess that their answer was a sleeping baby in an animal’s cradle.

Today, we are in a new waiting period. Emmanuel came once, stayed a while, but promised that He would come again. Though we saw the mystery unveiled in part at Bethlehem, mankind – and the earth he has destroyed – has not yet been restored to their original condition. Why is God, again, waiting so long to rescue? How can He restrain Himself from coming when evil is rampant upon the earth? The nature of waiting is to have unanswered questions. The challenge of waiting is to find the spiritual grit to make proclamations of faith while we scan the horizon for His appearing.

In every way you might be watching for His salvation this Christmastime, do not let Your trust in God be shaken. Rest in the mystery of His timetable. Grieve – but not without faith. Expect ~ but without a sense of entitlement. Question ~ but not with a fist. History will always reveal that love prevailed in the waiting.

You don’t always come sweeping in to make a grand statement. Many miss the salvation of a Bethlehem moment. Don’t let it be me. Amen

Baby Language and Prayer

Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. I Cor. 14:10

Christmas is the one time of year most people concentrate on a baby.  We think of Mary and then recall our own experiences of holding an infant.  Ron and I waited six years before holding Jaime, our first child, in our arms.  Three years later, Ryan joined us.  When they were newborns, neither was able to talk with intelligible words yet we enjoyed communicating as if we really understood each other.  They would coo and I would whisper back, “Oh, is that so!”  This back and forth exchange went on for as long as it took for them to fall asleep. Did it matter that we were not speaking concrete thoughts?  Not to me.  Not to them.  It was all about a language of connectedness.

Mary was like any other mother and bonded with her child, the infant Jesus.  Could she sense His divinity even though His language was yet without words?  What tender stories surrounded His infancy?  We’ll never know unless Mary feels led to share some of them with us in heaven.

Communicating with an unseen God is still a mystery.  Plunge into the depths of Him and we experience unintelligible language there, too. His glory defies words and though our hearts burst with the wonder of it, human language cannot capture it. Prayer is all about spending time in His presence; connecting, with or without words.  The resting is restorative.  The love is transformational.  The language transcends time and space.

Prayer often takes us to the place where two spirits meet to commune in silence.  We meet God on a deeper dimension.  Whether my intercession today is filled with words, or is wordless, prayer is to be celebrated.  God is a Father who holds me closely, hears my sighs, sees my tears, senses my false starts, and understands each expression perfectly.

Make me fluent in the things of Your Spirit.  Amen

Jesus Went To The Missionfield

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges. He [Jesus] took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. Philippians 2:7

I’ve witnessed the pain a parent feels when their child boards a plane for far off places. The mission field beckons with all of its rewards and its dangers. The parents can’t foretell the future so they are not certain they will see their child again. They grieve as if they might not. Yet, they rejoice that some future reunion will ultimately be an eternal one.

Christian parents know it won’t be easy. The more hostile the culture to Christianity, the more danger their child faces. There will be want, discouragement, defeat, even threats of persecution. There will also be mountaintops, spiritual victories, and unexpected miracles. Does God understand a parent’s misgivings and broken heart when goodbyes are said? Yes, He experienced it firsthand.

The Trinity had always been together, functioning in perfect harmony from before time. Their synergy is described in terms of a rhythmic slow dance. They moved in perfect sync. Each had a clearly defined role and the execution of them was achieved without the slightest hint of friction.

Imagine how their rhythm was disrupted when the Son left the Trinity to go to His mission field. Intimacy was disrupted as the Son became a child in Mary’s womb. God, the Father, bade His Son goodbye and watched Him leave. God was able to see into the future. There was no fear of the unknown but there was pain. He knew what awaited His child. He envisioned the 40 days of temptation in the desert. He knew Lucifer intimately and could predict the all out war that would be waged. God knew who would accept Jesus as the Messiah. He knew the faces of those who would openly reject Him, too. He foresaw the close calls; the brushes with death as crowds plotted to kill Jesus. He meticulously planned each way of escape to ensure that His Son would fulfill His mission at Calvary. And yes, the Father also rejoiced, in advance, over the disciples that would be called and mentored. He looked down through the ages and saw an unstoppable church on the move. It would be battered but it would prevail. He saw it all and He felt what human parents feel at their child’s departure. Joy and agony.

As Mary welcomed her newborn Messiah, God had just said goodbye to a part of Himself. From a human perspective, the plan was ludicrous and treacherous. From a divine perspective, there was no other way. The love story of the ages was being written. It was the only way His estranged creation could be restored to paradise.

Father, You gave it all up too. Thank you for counting the cost and deciding that Your creation was worth loving so recklessly. Amen

Can I Really Grasp It?

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1

I heard a quote the other day. Ideology is peaceful but history is violent. The darkness of this world, starting with the fall of man, has been overwhelming. No matter where we study history, there are stories of unspeakable cruelty.  Our lasting shred of innocence has been shattered by what we see on the evening news.  Never did we think we would see such savagery come to pass in my lifetime.

The differences between the darkness of evil and the light of the glory of God are so stark that I simply can not comprehend them.  Within the limitations of my mortality,  I don’t understand the full extent of God’s holiness nor Satan’s villainous nature.  I also don’t grasp the evil of my own heart nor the power of what it means to be created in the image of God. If I knew what it really meant to have His Spirit inside, wouldn’t I live as a blazing fire?  Wouldn’t my passion drive out all vestiges of a numbed out existence?  As it is, there are still days I taste the latter.

The Light of the world entered our violent world humbly and quietly. His light was only visible to some but for those who had spiritual eyesight, the darkness was eclipsed by the glory of the Son of Man.  Oh, what darkness was resident within the rule of the Roman Empire.  It was a corrupt and vicious dictatorship.  The nation of Israel had been suffering in the shadows of evil and were languishing for their Messiah to come and deliver them. His birth was preceded by 400 years of silence, a deafening and interminable silence. Never was the light more life saving than when Jesus came to show the world the Father’s face but most didn’t see Him as the answer to their prayers.  The miracle they, and their ancestors, had been crying out for had arrived but they couldn’t celebrate.

God’s brilliance is all around me because God loves to show off His glory. Am I receptive?  Can I see it?  And how much more so at Christmastime is the wonder of heaven revealed! How do the angelic hosts of heaven celebrate the birthday of Jesus? Someday I’ll know but I want to begin to take part in the celebration now. I’m asking God to open my spirit wide so that I can feel the impact of heaven and earth colliding.  The re-telling of His birth, captured by the musicians of heaven, has to be stunning.

Let me hear the music. In Jesus name, Amen

The Mercy Of Joseph

Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man. Matthew 1:19

When Judah found out that his daughter-in-law, Tamar, had played the part of a harlot, he sentenced her to be burned. When Joseph discovered that his fiancée, Mary, was pregnant, he reached out to her in love and mercy. Joseph was a righteous man and righteousness reaches out with mercy first, whereas humanness pronounces judgment. Joseph really knew Mary and wrestled with the issue of her pure heart and her circumstances. He knew that Mary’s chastity and her pregnancy were incongruent. Only God would ease his torment by revealing the truth about her conception.

Without God’s work of redemption in my heart, there is something sinister in me that loves gossip. Getting the dirt on upright people can be enjoyable. Shooting arrows of condemnation at them can be cathartic as I try to make myself believe that I’m not as bad as I thought. Jesus’ standard of selfless, agape love burns brightly and eats holes through my self- righteousness. He reminds me that love is loyal and believes the best until proven otherwise.

A person can live righteously for forty years, mess up once, and people are quick to erase his good track record. All that he has been and done is wiped from his credentials. Where is our merciful response, the one we would want if we were in his shoes? “Christine has done what? That doesn’t sound like her. If it’s true, I wonder what happened to make her act like that?”

“Mary, pregnant? That can’t be. Mary has a heart for her God and has proven herself faithful to me. There must be more to this story.” And for Joseph, there was.

You delight in righteousness, Lord. Left to myself, I delight in another’s downfall. Make me like Joseph, not Judah. Amen