Infant Martyrs

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem.  Matthew 2:16

Mothers wept over their slain children.  Wailing was heard beyond the boundaries of Bethlehem.  Herod’s rage had caused him to strike with a broad stroke.  Every male child, age two and under, had been murdered.

The king’s act was preposterous.  He was seventy years old.  If an infant child were to grow and assume the throne, it wouldn’t be in his lifetime.  Jesus was no threat to him professionally!  But Herod wasn’t out to protect his reign of power; he was out to exact revenge.  A mind-set bent on revenge ignores rationality.

It’s easy to focus on the miracle of Jesus’ deliverance.  His life was spared because his parents had been warned in a dream about the coming danger and had fled to Egypt.  Yet the losses of these other families are part of the story, too.  Parents of these slain children had no perspective on their loss.  They did not know that their sons were martyrs, slain for the cause of Christ.  Their sons died so Jesus could grow up and, one day. hang on a cross, give his life, and offer them all something greater.  The forgiveness of sins.  Redemption.  Intimacy with the Father who once walked with Adam.

Time brings perspective. I can look back at my life and say in retrospect, “Yes, I lost that, but later God gave me this!”  We grieve without hope unless we embrace the One and only Redeemer.  The stories of our spiritual ancestors teach us that our weeping is not in vain.  We can pursue our redemption and trade our losses for something infinitely greater.  Spiritual riches surpass the weight of our tears.

Weeping is a part of life.  But I do not cry without hope.  Jesus, you promise to redeem my losses.  I look to you, for you write the future.  Amen

Journal Question:

You are approaching the home of a mother whose little boy was murdered by Herod’s soldiers.  What would your comfort look like and sound like?  Knock on the door and walk through the experience.  Formulate your words based on solid theology.

Did Abba Speak Before Jesus’ Birth?

Can you feel me near you?  You are still part of the Trinity, just incarnate and tiny.  Let me soothe away the confinement you’re feeling, Son.  Tomorrow, you will no longer be cramped.  You will gasp your first breath of earth’s air and stretch your legs.  This is both awesome and terrifying for you.

The moment is upon you, my Lamb.  This is what we planned from before time when we looked ahead and saw the earth break apart from sin.  Lucifer, once our friend, is still your foe.  He is on the prowl and out to destroy your life.  But take care because he has no power over you.  You are small but you are protected.  I will do all that is necessary to ensure that you make it to the cross.  I’ll send dreams to Joseph and he will listen.  He is a righteous man and will look after you.

Fear not, my Son, when life feels fragile. I have gone before you. Threats will be empty and under my sovereign control.  For all you will suffer, my heart already aches.  For all you will conquer, I already celebrate.  For all those you will love for me, my heart is already grateful.

No one will ever be closer to you than me.  I am your Father and I love you.  One day, you will be a man and tell your followers about us.  You will say, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”  Keep telling them.  Let them see us together – all the way to the cross.

Tonight, hear my voice.  Rest.  I will rock you to sleep.

Why Peace Doesn’t Come

The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in Thee.  Isaiah 26:3

In the past, when my mind was unsettled, I prayed for peace.  When I was plagued with distrust, I prayed for peace.  When I felt God was unfair, I prayed for peace. I didn’t get the expected results and finally learned that I had things backward. What do you do when you need peace? Do you pray the similar prayers that I prayed – as if it were all up to God?

In the past, when my mind was unsettled, I prayed for peace. When I was plagued with distrust, I prayed for peace. When I felt God was unfair, I prayed for peace. I didn’t get the expected results and finally learned that I had things backward. What do you do when you need peace? Do you pray the similar prayers that I prayed – as if it were all up to God?
Jesus is my peace. Peace lay in a manger. So, in light of Christmas coming, I’m exploring the subject of peace again and under what conditions God promises it. This verse from Isaiah gives solid direction. Those who are steadfast in their mind, who choose to trust, will be kept in perfect peace. If I do not have peace, it is because my mind has taken a detour to a place of distrust. I have allowed my interpretation of my circumstances to rule me, and subsequently, it has taken my emotions captive. My beliefs are the problem, not God’s inability to bring peace.
Jesus was the WORD and He grew to say many things. My choice to dis-believe Him is what erodes a deep, inner calm. I must be intentionally steadfast and resolved to trust Him implicitly despite the mounting evidence against His faithfulness. He is God and He is always faithful, always loving, and always true to His promises. Upon these truths, my life rests. Period. Circumstances can not define my theology.
To provide an illustration of how peace is found, here’s a personal example.
I once prayed over the course of a decade for God’s intervention in a certain area of my life. During that time, I saw no evidence of His future provision. I lived despairing, but eventually, I believe the Spirit of God moved through me to confess this out loud: “You are a faithful God who hears the prayers of Your child. You answer every prayer with perfect love. You hold Yourself responsible to meet my needs. I trust You and wait on You with full confidence that You will come and You will save.” I confessed this often, many times a day. Soon after, peace followed. And soon after, so also did God’s deliverance.
I used to pray for peace as though it were all up to God. I took no personal responsibility for laying the foundation of faith. I let my mind wander where it wanted, and my thoughts were often a cesspool of doubts and confusion. I’m learning that peace of mind is always a two-way street. If I do my part, God’s promise of peace will descend upon my ragged spirit.
Oh, Prince of Peace, I honor Your promises in every area of my life that still waits for Your deliverance. Amen

as unfair, I prayed for peace.  I didn’t get the results I expected and finally learned that I had things backwards.  What do you do when you need peace?  Do you pray the similar prayers that I prayed – as if it were all up to God?

Jesus is my peace.  Peace lay in a manger.  So, in light of Christmas coming, I’m exploring the subject of peace again and under what conditions God promises it.  This verse from Isaiah gives solid direction.  Those who are steadfast in their mind, who choose to trust, will be kept in perfect peace.  If I do not have peace, it is because my mind has taken a detour to a place of dis-trust.  I have allowed my interpretation of my circumstances to rule me, and subsequently, it has taken my emotions captive.  My beliefs are the problem, not God’s inability to bring peace.

Jesus was the WORD and He grew to say many things.  My choice to dis-believe Him is what erodes a deep, inner calm.  I must be intentionally steadfast and resolved to trust Him implicitly despite the mounting evidence against His faithfulness.  He is God and He is always faithful, always loving, always true to His promises.  Upon these truths my life rests.  Period.  My theology can not be defined by circumstances.

To provide an illustration for how peace is found, here’s a personal example.

I once prayed over the course of a decade for God’s intervention in a certain area of my life.  During that time, I saw no evidence of His future provision.  I lived despairing, but eventually, I believe the Spirit of God moved through me to confess this out loud:  “You are a faithful God who hears the prayers of Your child.  You answer every prayer with perfect love.  You hold Yourself responsible to meet my needs. I trust You and wait on You with full confidence that You will come and You will save.”  I confessed this often, many times a day.  Soon after, peace followed.  And soon after, so also did God’s deliverance.

I used to pray for peace as though it were all up to God.  I took no personal responsibility for laying the foundation of faith.  I let my mind wander where it wanted and my thoughts were often a cesspool of doubts and confusion.  I’m learning that peace of mind is always a two way street.  If I do my part, God’s promise of peace will descend upon my ragged spirit.

Oh Prince of Peace, I honor Your promises in every area of my life that still waits for Your deliverance.  Amen 

When Glory Collides With Evil

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

This quote arrested me recently.

‘Ideology is peaceful, but history is violent.’

The darkness of this world has always been overwhelming. No matter where we study history, there are stories of unspeakable cruelty. Our lasting shred of innocence is shattered by what we see on the evening news. 

The differences between the darkness of evil and the light of the glory of God are incomprehensible.  I don’t understand the full extent of God’s holiness, nor do I understand Satan’s villainous nature. I can’t even grasp the evil of my heart or the power of what it means to be created in the image of God. If I knew the possibilities of what it really means to have His Spirit inside, wouldn’t it culminate in a blazing fire?  Wouldn’t passion drive out all vestiges of a numbed-out existence? 

The Light of the world entered our violent world quietly. His light was only visible to some, contrasted by the darkness of the Roman Empire, a corrupt and vicious dictatorship. The nation of Israel suffered in the shadows of evil and languished for a Messiah to deliver them. His birth was preceded by 400 years of interminable silence. The one they had been crying out for, Jesus, arrived, yet they didn’t celebrate.

God loves to reveal His glory. Am I receptive? Can I see it? And how much more so at Christmastime is the wonder of heaven revealed! I want to take part in the celebration. I’m asking God to open my spirit wider to feel the impact of heaven and earth colliding. 

Let me hear the music. In Jesus name, Amen

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