Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Heart’s Longing

Oh to…
Rest in your arms
Relax in Your will
Revel in Your goodness
Rejoice in Your beauty
Renounce my selfish ways
Repent of my pride
Remember and obey Your instructions
Recount Your past faithfulness
Realize Your wonderful purposes for me
Reflect Your glory for the world to see!

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Helping to Change the World

Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.  John 16:24

It’s true!  Just the other day two of the things I’ve been praying for have been answered!  Saeed Abedini was released from imprisonment in Iran, and my friend’s sick grandchildren are well!  Besides that, some other friends’ house was rented out and yet another friend’s grandchild is on the way to recovery from a serious skin condition we’d prayed about for a long time.  Because I helped to pray for these things, I share in the joy as God answers, and I delight in being part of God’s team.

What a responsibility and privilege it is to participate in God’s plan and in people’s lives by praying for them.  God loves to hear us pray, and He does answer!  All the more reason to keep praying.

Love Song

High and holy
Sovereign, Savior
Creator, Sustainer
Comforter, Friend
You gave me life twice
You chose me forever
I’ll live for you.

My life is yours
You’re all I need
Please keep me true, trusting you
Rejoicing, thanking, growing, serving, glowing
Sharing your love with the world.

(No) Peace on Earth

peace_on_earth_by_alohasiempre-d4i35fg

During Christmas, “Peace” is prominently displayed, echoing the words of the angels who announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds and then concluded with, 
“…peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

But turn a few pages and read Jesus startling words, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other!”  (Luke 12:51 NLT)

So did Jesus come to bring peace on earth, or didn’t he?  What seems to be a contradiction becomes clear when we look at a couple of things:

1) The context.  In the first, peace is announced “to those with whom God is pleased,” which would exclude those who reject him.  In the second, Jesus goes on to explain that even families will be divided because some will believe in him and others will not.  We’ve all seen plenty of examples of this at all levels of society!

2) The meaning of “peace.”  As with many words, this one has several senses.  The kind of peace Jesus did not come to bring was smooth personal relationships between people when some reject him.  What he, the Messiah, did come to bring was reconciliation with God and all the blessings (security, harmony, well-being) that would involve for those who submit to his rule and become part of his Kingdom.  Will you be part of his Kingdom and enjoy that wonderful peace?

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Holding onto Christmas

I hate to take the Christmas tree down.  It never seems like I’ve enjoyed it enough yet, nor fully explored the wonder that Christmas holds—a loving God becoming man and coming to rescue us from our sin and its consequences.

Michael Card is a singer who goes a long way in capturing the miracle of the Incarnation with words like these: 

“Their (the prophets’) wildest dreams had simply not been wild enough.”

“Give up on your wondering.  Fall down on your knees!”

And then the life of those who choose to follow Him:

“…who belong to eternity, stranded in time…”

“There is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for all who obey…”

As the new year begins, I take the first step into a new chapter of that wild life of freedom, drawing ever nearer to the time when my heavenly Bridegroom will come for me and the whole journey will be oh so worthwhile!

What Are We Singing?

clip_image002Carolers appear at our gate every evening during this time of year. A few offer beautiful music, either vocal or instrumental.  Others beat on a can and shout something indecipherable, always followed by “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” That’s our cue to come out with a treat. 

Of all the standard Christmas carols, the two we hear are “Joy to the World” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”  And one wonders, as the garbled words emerge from enthusiastic throats, do they understand what they’re singing?  Especially when it’s in English, which most of these children wouldn’t understand.  (I must say that it’s usually sung a second time in their own language.) 

Then I have to ask myself, do I really understand the same song when I sing it?  Do I think about it or does my mouth go on autopilot while I’m thinking about what’s for lunch?

Take this line from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”: 
God and sinners reconciled.  Unpacked, these four words contain the whole story:

–A former perfect relationship between God and humankind
–People becoming sinful and separated from God
–God’s provision of the means to restore that relationship.

It was done by God setting aside His divine privilege for the sake of the estranged human race and becoming one of us!  Coming down and reaching out to pay the  death penalty we deserve and restore us to the place He intended for us when He made us.

What love!  This is why we celebrate.  Would you turn down such a gift?

christmas-gift-with-big-bow

How long is 400 years?  Just about that long ago the Mayflower set out with its load of pilgrims to settle the New World.  A long time!

As the Advent season begins, we step back into the sandals of the Israelites 400 years before Christ.  The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, had finished his work, and no word came from heaven during those four long centuries.  How dark!  Were they still expecting the promised Messiah to come?  Had they given up hope?  Maybe some did, but from people’s response to Jesus when he did come(“Could this be the Messiah?”) we know that many were still watching for Him.

Another period of 400 years in biblical history was the Israelites’ time in Egypt, much of that under slavery.  What a long time!  By the time God sent Moses to rescue them, had they forgotten God’s promises to Abraham to make them a great nation?  If they had, God certainly hadn’t, and He fulfilled that promise.

Still another 400-year period stretched from the beginning of the Israelite kingdom under Saul until the northern half of it toppled to the Assyrian army.  (The southern half lasted for 125 years longer.)  What were God’s people doing during this time? Following God at times, but drifting farther and farther away until the predicted punishment for their treachery against God was upon them.

At the end of each of these 400-year periods came a sudden, climactic event.

–After the Israelites’ slavery, they were suddenly freed, through the Red Sea on dry ground, and on their way to their own homeland.

–After the 400-year kingdom, during which they thought the threatened punishment would never happen, they were suddenly destroyed by Assyria and taken into forced exile.

–After the 400-year “silent period” between the Old and New Testaments, suddenly came to live among them as a man, fulfilling the hopes and promises of millenia!

Which is why we celebrate this time of year.  These hopes and promises are for us today.  And while we celebrate Jesus’ coming as a baby and then dying a horrible death to provide forgiveness for our sin, we look forward to the day when He comes in awesome power and glory to set everything right.  May we never get tired of watching for Him.  Let’s be ready whenever He makes His appearance!

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