Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for December, 2012

A Lord’s Love

Recently I’ve enjoyed movies of Dorothy Sayers’ stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.  Of course, the mystery angle intrigues me, but I am more deeply touched by Lord Peter’s patient and persistent courtship of Harriet Vane.  She does her best to discourage him, point out all her own faults and inadequacies, and flee from him.  But Peter is not put off.  He proposes to her again and again, taking her “no” with equanimity but not finality, assuring her of his unconditional love, acceptance and admiration in spite of what she thinks of herself.  He is respectful, friendly, kind, helpful, and brilliant, and she can always depend on him to help her out of a jam.  In fact, in the first of this series he rescues her from hanging for a murder (of a lover) that she did not commit. 

I wonder if Sayers, a Christian, intended any allusion here to our Lord’s courtship of us.  He has rescued us from the consequences of our sin (which we have committed!) and pursues us with a dogged devotion, a kind and persistent love in spite of all our inadequacies, our unsavory past, our independent spirit and our stubbornness.  He is a Gentleman, though, and will not force us. 

By the way, I love the end of the third novel where Harriet finally gives up her stubborn independence and responds to this amazing love, promising to marry Peter.  Whew!  You can almost hear the sigh of relief from yourself and from all the characters in the story. 

However, backing up to the moment of that last proposal—Peter says that he has a feeling that whatever Harriet says will be final.  Are we in danger of saying a final “no” to the Lord?  Do we dare keep putting Him off?  What if he takes us at our word?

How Long a Wait?

So the world didn’t end on December 21.  Does that mean it never will?  What has anyone learned from this false alarm?

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I remember when when my little sister and I were kids, excited about the arrival of our cousins from several states away. In the morning we took up our vigil, sitting beside the road on a piece of an old tire.  But it was midnight before they arrived, and of course we’d given up our post long before that.  The visit that followed was great fun, and soon we forgot about the frustration of waiting.

We watch for our Lord’s return.  He told us to!  We can be sure He will come, though it might not be as soon as we wish. 

     In the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”
     But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
     But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.*  But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
     And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.
  (excerpted from 1 Peter 3:3-14 NLT)

Maranatha!

Coming for me—once and again

I love word plays.  For example, the phrase “coming for me” could mean either “coming for my benefit” or “coming to get me.”  A Christmas song I found recently focuses on the first sense:

If You had not come, tender baby King
And humbly left Your throne to reach someone like me
If You had not walked upon this broken ground
Where on earth would I be now?
If You had not come

Love came for me, Love rescued me
Love called my name, Love took my place
Sweet Lamb of God, I’m bowing down
My eyes have seen; I’m finally free
Love came for me
       (“Love Came for Me.”by Shannon Wexelberg)

But that’s only half of the story.  Christ’s second “coming for me” is found in the last verse of an older song expressing the joyful anticipation of God’s people:

Coming for me, coming for me,
One day to earth He is coming for me;
Then with what joy His dear face I shall see,
O how I praise Him He’s coming for me!
         (“Wounded for Me,” 5th verse by Gladys Wescott Roberts)

This is so much more exciting even than a child counting the days till Christmas!    Could it be this year? 

The Best Gifts Ever!

Joy, peace, love and hope are all over the place at Christmas time.  On cards, decorations, hangings, etc.  As they should be.  But sometimes familiar words get so familiar they bounce right off our ears.  I thought I’d go on a search for the most superlative presentation of each of these three gifts in God’s Word.

Joy–You love [Jesus Christ] even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.   1 Peter 1:8  (NLT)

When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  John 15:10-11  (NLT)

Peace–Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give. Set your troubled hearts at rest, and banish your fears.  (John 14:27 REB)

Love–May you have the power to understand…how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

Hope—With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (from Romans 8:19-23  NLT)

Glitter or Glory

At Christmas we see plenty of glitter.  Our Christmas tree, for one.  And it’s fun.  I love gawking at all the lit-up yards, have always been attracted to sparkly things.  Glitter is man-made, and it fades sooner or later. 

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Glory is another thing.  It’s God-made.  This word applies to sunsets, sunrises, mountain grandeur, visions of God and angels, and the inspired songs that celebrate these things, such as Handel’s Messiah! These are real things which last. 

How much of our Christmas celebration focuses on glitter, and how much on glory?  Ours has both, but it’s the glory part that I crave.  I so long to be totally overwhelmed by the glory and wonder of the lasting truth of Christmas:  the Incarnation!

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

Too Many Kings

We used to sing about “We three kings of Ori ‘n’ Tar” traveling far to see Jesus.  Where did we get the idea that these guys were kings?  The only king on the scene there was the Baby!  Even Herod was a wannabe, not recognized by the Jews as their legitimate king.

Jesus as King is arguably the main theme of the gospel of Matthew.  Interestingly, however, the only ones in this book who refer to Him by that title are Gentiles:  the magi at His birth, and Pontius Pilate at His death, who was responsible for the sign on the cross, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”  (Matthew 27:37) 

But another title used in Matthew carries the same meaning:  “Son of David.”  The legitimate and promised successor to the throne of Israel’s most beloved king centuries before.  Who used this title for Jesus? 

Matthew, the author (1:1)

Two pairs of blind men, presumably Jewish (9:27 & 20:30-31).

A Canaanite woman seeking help for her demonized daughter (15:22)

Triumphant crowds cheering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem a week before He was crucified (29:9)

The general population wasn’t so sure.  “He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.”  (John 1:10-11)

I wonder—if I had been alive in that day, how would I have received the King?  More importantly, is He truly King of every area of my life today?  What areas have I usurped?

What Makes Happiness?

“The United Nations Human Development Index 2011 measures happiness in different countries based on factors such as income, education, health, life expectancy, economy, gender equality and sustainability.”  Norway, they say, is the happiest country.  The US is #4. (Source: CNN Travel website.)

Looking at the website, I don’t see the word “happiness.”  That seems to be an inference made by the CNN writer.  But assuming the viewpoint that these factors comprise happiness,what’s wrong here?  By these standards, Scrooge might have been a happy man, and definitely Bob Cratchit (father of Tiny Tim) would not be.  However, the reverse was actually true in that well-loved Christmas tale.

In this scheme, where are the following factors?

sense of purpose & fulfillment
contentment
solid loving relationships
respect
a clean conscience
commitment
And greatest of all, faith and hope in our Creator and Savior

If you had to choose between the first list (health, wealth, long life) and this second list, which do you think would make you happier?  And do the more “developed” countries really have a corner on happiness?  Having lived in both, I think not.

Painful Reminders

I can identify with Jacob these days. 

After this conniving character met God face-to-face – and even wrestled with Him – he was never the same.  He had a memento of that occasion to constantly remind him of that life-changing encounter:  a limp where God had touched his thigh and put it out of joint!  (Genesis 32:22-32) 

Paul also had an irritating “thorn in the flesh” which reminded him of his dependence on God.  Some think it was an eye problem related to his life-changing encounter with God on the road to Damascus. 

Lately I have developed a pain in my left hip that plagues me with every step.  Instead of complaining about it, I’d like God to use it to remind me to stay humble and dependent on Him.  That’s when I’ll truly be strong.  Even if it hurts a bit.

To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me…. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Cor. 12:7-10 NLT)

Did Jesus Come to Bring Peace?

“Peace on earth.”  We hear it frequently at this time of year in carols, on Christmas cards, and elsewhere.  This was part of the angels’ message to the shepherds in Luke 2.  But how about Jesus’ words ten chapters later (Luke 12:51-52) where he says, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other!  From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.”

So what’s going on?  Maybe it has something to do with the meaning of “peace.”  As a Bible translator, I’ve observed several different senses of this word. 

–Sometimes it refers to cessation of hostility, as in “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 5:1)

–In some places it refers to smooth interpersonal relationships, such as “Be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50)

–It can also mean freedom from worry, as in “…my peace I give to you… Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.” (John 14:27)

–But in yet other places, “peace” might be better understood through the Hebrew perspective of “shalom.”  One of the resources I use regularly says, It is connected with the messianic salvation and concerns the whole social order, referring to well being, prosperity, security, and harmony. It refers to all the blessings resulting from the coming of the Messiah.” 

Now, which sense of “peace” do you think is meant by the angels in their announcement to the shepherds? 

And which sense is meant in Luke 12? 

While Waiting—How to Live

I keep puzzling over how God’s people should live in this world that’s falling apart at the seams as we wait for His kingdom to arrive in all its power and put it all right.  This morning I read Matthew 24-25 which answers this very question.  Here is what Jesus says:

Don’t be alarmed when terrible things begin to happen.  24:6

Don’t be deceived by false messiahs (or teachings, etc.) 24:5-26

Hang in there, enduring faithfully to the end even when persecutions come. 24:9-13

Keep alert and be ready to meet him whenever He shows up (like a householder on the guard for burglars).  24:42-44

Keep working faithfully, not getting careless about sin (like an abusive manager). 24:45-50

Be wise; don’t slide into apathy or laziness (like the 5 foolish virgins). 25:1-13

Wisely use the resources God has entrusted to us during His absence. 25:14-29

Care, share, & serve others in need, as if they were Christ Himself!  25:31-45

With these assignments, there won’t be time for fussing, fretting, or fear!

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