Christmas is finished and decorations will soon be down. The carols have all been sung. Family reunions have been enjoyed (or tolerated, as the case may be). The gifts have been wrapped, unwrapped, enjoyed for a while, and some of them broken, returned to the store, or forgotten. The partying has produced an expanded waistline and a slim checkbook. The aftermath of Christmas can leave you with a deflated feeling, especially if you live in a cold climate with several more dreary months of winter.
But the best gift of Christmas just keeps getting better.
I’m reminded of the birth of our children. It was such fun anticipating the happy event. We prepared baby clothes, toys, and equipment. We dreamed of what it would be like to hold this baby in our arms. Finally the big day arrived with all its excitement—and then it was over. No, it had just begun. I’d find myself busy in the kitchen and then remember with a surge of joy that I had a new baby sleeping in the other room! He has been a wonderful part of my life to stay, after all the excitement over his birth.
So Jesus, the whole reason for CHRISTmas, is here to stay after all the excitement of the event has died down. The question is, what will we do with Him? Do we put him away on the shelf with the decorations until next December rolls around? Do we trade Him in for something more glitzy? Or do we welcome Him into our lives with love and honor every day—and enjoy Christmas all year long?
Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) was addressed to people who were getting tired of God. Let’s try on their shoes and if they fit us today:
1. We have not recognized how much God loves us. (1:1-5) This is foundational. All those that follow hinge on this one.
2. We have disrespected the Lord by failing to give Him our BEST. (1:6-14)
3. We have not carefully and faithfully passed on God’s instruction to those we are responsible for (e.g. our children). (2:1-9)
4. We have not kept our commitments to God, to our marriage partners, and to others. (2:1-16)
5. We say that evil is good and that God is pleased with evildoers (e.g. praying God’s blessing on abortionists) . (2:17)
6. We don’t really trust God to provide for us if we give first to Him—so we don’t. (3:7-12)
7. We devalue serving God and instead prioritize our own desires and applaud those who prosper in their godless lifestyles (3:13-15)
In the end, however, God says that everyone will see the difference between those who serve Him and those who do not:
–For those who rebel against God: “The LORD Almighty says, “The day is coming when all proud and evil people will burn like straw. On that day they will burn up, and there will be nothing left of them.” (4:1 TEV)
–For those who love and obey God: “But for you who obey me, my saving power will rise on you like the sun and bring healing like the sun’s rays. You will be as free and happy as calves let out of a stall. On the day when I act, you will overcome the wicked, and they will be like dust under your feet.” (4:2-4 TEV)
Within a half hour of reading in the minor prophets (those short books at the end of the Old Testament) I came across these two verses that seem to contradict each other:
“Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears..” (Joel 3:10 NIV)
“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks..” (Micah 4:3, also Isaiah 2:4)
I am told that in that day, people could and actually did convert these tools into weapons and vice versa, depending on whether it was a time of peace or war.
With that insight and looking at the context of these two verses, we see that Joel is warning Israel’s enemies to get ready for the war that God will wage against them.
On the other hand, Micah is describing the state of eternal peace that will be inaugurated when God finally rules all nations and hearts without rival.
God’s arrival can mean disaster or peace, depending on whether we’re on His side or not. Which side are you on? Are you looking forward to His direct intervention in world history or dreading it?
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.
Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. (2 Peter 3:9-13 NLT)
A reality show star who quotes the Bible is taken off the air at the same time that a polygamist is given his own reality show.
Chimpanzees’ “personhood” is being pushed while preborn (and even newborn) humans’ personhood is being denied.
Veterans’ pensions are being cut and money given instead to support those who kill millions of babies.
We are being told that we still have freedom of religion, but we are not allowed to practice it by word or deed that someone else might not agree with.
Evil is being called good, and good is being called evil. It’s all upside down.
My response is to pray with all my heart:
Our Father in heaven:
May your holy name be honored;
may your Kingdom come;
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)
It will all be put right when God sets up His just, loving, and beautiful kingdom on earth!
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Magi from the east were looking for a King.
Jesus showed up as the Son of David in Bethlehem.
Simeon was watching for the Messiah God had promised he’d see before he died.
That Messiah showed up in the Temple in his mother’s arms.
Disciples on a stormy lake were looking for a lifesaver!
The Savior showed up walking on the water and calmed the storm.
Mary Magdalene was distraught over the loss of her beloved Rabbi and Friend.
Jesus whispered her name and turned her tears into incredulous joy.
Two men expressed frustrated hopes on the road to Emmaus.
A Stranger walked with them, explained it all and then revealed His identity.
Seven disciples were returning from a futile fishing trip.
A Man on shore gave them advice and their nets were filled!
“It’s Jesus!” When Jesus shows up, all is well. He is all we need!
Martha had a very special guest—and lots of others, too—and she wanted it all to be just right. (Was she the Martha Stewart of her day?) When she poked her head into the living room to see why her sister wasn’t on duty, Jesus told her to chill. Keep it simple! Relax, come and join us for a while. After all, this is Jesus’ party so enjoy Him.
Could our Christmas be like that? Can we reduce the fuss and bother, keep it simple and enjoy Jesus more?
I smile when I remember a taxi driver who stopped for us several days ago. My nervousness as I waited for my companion to cross the busy street and join me must have been obvious, because the driver chided me, “Don’t worry; be happy!” Yes, thanks, brother! I needed that. And when he deposited us at the church, he said, “Praise the Lord!”
Yes, this is going to be a good Christmas .
I didn’t have a choice. It was straight up—a loooong way up! A ladder of sorts was built into the vertical side of this wadi and our group was exiting that way. With others climbing up before me and right behind, I couldn’t look up or down. I just had to focus on one step at a time. If anyone had told me that morning what I’d have to do that day, I might have tried to beg off. But as it is, I learned a valuable lesson that day in Israel about God’s provision of strength and courage every step of the way.
Each morning as consciousness dawns on me, I greet the Lord with thanks for sleep and for the newness of another day. Then I mentally review my plans for the day while acknowledging that He may have some surprises in store to be meted out along with the grace to handle them.
I’m reminded of a simple song my mother taught me as a child:
Step by step I’ll follow Jesus
Hour by hour I’m in his care
Day by day He walks beside me
Through the years I know He’s there.
He can still the mighty tempest
He can calm the troubled sea
He the waters trod, He’s the Son of God
He’s the One who always walks with me!
The Jews (some of the survivors, that is) were back from their 70-year captivity and trying to rebuild their lives back in their own land. But it wasn’t the same. This land was now heavily under the influence of non-Jews who felt threatened by the return of its former occupants. In fact, their influence extended right into the highest rank of Jewish leadership, the high priest, Eliashib. Eliashib was closely connected with the very two, Tobiah and Sanballat, who had tried every trick in the book to put a stop to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. (From the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament)
And now, thanks to this high priest, Tobiah had his own private quarters right inside God’s Temple! And Sanballat was now related to the high priest by marriage! Tolerance, right? Inclusivity? Well, God doesn’t tolerate this kind of tolerance. His standard is holiness, which is borne out in the three main points of the vow the people took after repenting from “”the three big sins they kept falling into: intermarriage with pagan neighbors, violation of the Sabbath laws, and neglect of Temple worship and its requirements.
So what’s the relevance of all this today? The common thread is God’s requirement that His people remain untainted by that “lowest common denominator” that our own lower nature and the world around us relentlessly suck us into.
God has much better things for us—things that lead upward to joy, peace, love, life, light!
I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:13b-14 NLT)
The taxi ride was really stressful, dodging traffic and dangerous situations. Wondering if my driver was really “there” and competent. By the time I got to my destination, I was so rattled that I jumped out of the car without even thinking of my purse, the flowers in the back seat, or my suitcase in the trunk! Then—you know the physical feeling you get when you just realize you’ve lost your wallet? Well, it was awful. I wanted to deny it, delay whatever had to be done. But a friend took me aside and advised me to take care of things right away. But how? I hadn’t taken down the number of the taxi, and it was a yellow taxi just like gazillions of other taxis teeming the streets.
And then it was all over. I woke up. It WAS a nightmare! Thank God. It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and life is normal.
But wait. One day I really will “wake up” in the most wonderful place of all and realize that this earthly life was just a dream. All the stresses and sorrows will be faint memories as I open my eyes to focus on true reality, true beauty, true LIFE!
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
On the Internet I read how people don’t trust one another anymore.
In Proverbs I read that God delights in truthful people and honesty in business. (11:1;12:22)
I am puzzled by the scornful epithet “knockout truther” being applied to someone concerned over the recent rash of crimes by that name.
What is wrong with truth? Do we prefer lies?