Saturday, December 26, 2015

Luke 2:10-11 "And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Fear not. The angel's first words to the group if terrified shepherds were ones of comfort. Why was there fear? An unexpected occurrence, an unknown being, fear for their safety, even fear of being surrounded by the light of the glory of God. But the was no reason to fear because the news that the angel brang to the shepherds was good news, it was news that would bring great joy. And it was for anyone, anywhere. No matter who, no matter what they and done. All people. Even the shepherds, the nobodies. The good news was for them too.

What was the good news? It was that there was a Savior. Christmas means that God desires to restore what has been lost. As John Piper wrote in his book "Joy," Christmas means that God keeps his promises. A Savior was promised, and Savior came. And today salvation and restoration are promised for all who will but call out to God for it.

"I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies." (Psalms 18:3)

Truly he came to "save his people from their sins." Why do we look around and fear? Why do we wallow in doubt? Why do we settle for anything less then victory? There is good news of great joy for us, that a Savior has come who desires to save and restore.

"It is God's message of hope this Advent that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed. The Devil works to take the good and bring the bad. And Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil." (John Piper "Joy")

The coming of the Savior brings a message of comfort and not one of fear. One of joy and not of dismay. So let us look to the One who has come to "save his people from their sins," who holds the power to keep the good and change the bad, who desires to restore what has been stolen.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Matthew 25:40 "The king will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."'

Grace what have you done. In me You, God, saw no beauty, no good, no life, no strength, nothing desirable, nothing righteous. Yet despite the ugliness, lifelessness, darkness, deadness, weakness, and sinfulness, You took me as your own, loved me, accepted me and changed me.

The degree to which I understand this beautiful grace, this undeserved steadfast love, is the degree to which I will love my Savior in return. To understand this grace is to know that despite everything that I am not and can not, dispite my wretchedness, I am accepted. And then the least of these. If I understand this grace to me, instead of looking down, demeaning the broken and needy ones around me, I will look on with compassion because who I see is myself, broken and in need, except for Christ.

But how conditional is my love. It is all to easy to love a person because of behavior, appearance, background, status, or what that individual has to give me in return. This is far from the undeserved grace and love that have been lavished on me. Do I love so conditionally because somewhere in the raw part of my heart, I think of God as loving me conditionally, based on merit? Do I love based on standards and merit because I beleive that God's love to me is based off of that? In setting a self imposed standard on how and when I allow myself to beleive that God loves me, I have imposed this standard on others. Withholding grace, judging, conditionally loving.

Only understanding in my heart the unmerited grace and love I have received will compel in me sincere love for the least of these. They are broken as I am, they are in need of grace the same as I am. That is why, in the eyes of Jesus, loving the least of these is the same as loving Him. The water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, welcome for the stranger, clothes for the naked, visitation to the sick and imprisoned, these count for loving him, but not out of duty or obligation. It is a heartfelt response to his unconditional love.

We love as we beleive to be loved.
Open my eyes to your love.

"Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer. You shall cry, and he will say 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noon day." (Isaiah 58:9-10).

Friday, December 11, 2015

Romans 8:15 "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"

Am I acting out of fear, or out of love?

Fear always comes from a misconception of God, disbelief that he will come through, distrust that he is good and desires the best for his children. Fear is seeing God, not as our loving Father, but as a slavemaster, demanding compliance. Fear is doubting His steadfast love. Fear is bondage. It instills striving, imposes condemnation and inadequacy, never being good enough. Fear is depending on self because of doubt that God can be trusted. It leaves it's victim weary, burdened, and in despair.

Fear paralyzes, yet it also motivates. The minute I doubt His love, I begin to look in dependance on myself. I am in slavery to striving. Fear compels me to toil wearifully, dragging a heavy burden that I don't have to carry.

Yet this is not the spirit He has given His children, whom He adopted and called his own, who are covered with the redemptive blood of Christ. He has accepted me, claimed me as his child. He has chosen me, welcomed me, gave me a safe place of refuge, loved me as his daughter. He has given me an identity that is not based on what I try to do, but who He is, what He has already done. My Father is not so much looking for my service as he is my love. I can call to my Father in dependance for his help like a child would naturally call to her Father in times of need, trusting him to give aid.

Child of God, stop living like he does not love, quit living in fear, distrust of God. Realize sho you are because of the blood of Christ, how God sees you as righteous. How you are loved and have the priveledge of calling out to him as a helpless child would call to his father who is strong and able, who is loving and trustworthy.

"Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine." (Psalms 33:18-19"

Put your hope in His steadfast love.

"You never ask that i earn your affection,  I could never earn something that's free. There is no striving." (Bethel - There is No Striving)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Galatians 4:31-5:1 "So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit to a yoke of slavery."

A promise from God was given to Abraham, the promise of offspring. But how could life come from the womb of his wife, who could not bear children? Time passed, restlessness grew. Maybe they did not doubt the promise that God would give Abraham offspring, but they took the promise into their own hands and decided to do what they could to help God out. And not through Sarah, but through her slave woman, offspring was borne to Abraham.

Nothing but strife, abuse, and conflict resulted from this self initiated effort to fulfill God's promise. But this was not God's intent. Sure enough, in time, He fulfilled his promise to Abraham, life was brought from Sarah, who thought she could never have children.

Like the child borne to Sarah as a result of the promise of God, I am a child of the free woman, I am a result of the promise. Because of God and his grace, new life has been worked in me, when all was dead and lifeless.

But i have stooped to this yoke of slave woman many times past, yet today i bear testimony of God's work in my life showing me more and more that I have been set free. Following God appeared to me to be a lot of rules and standards, I put in a lot of effort to live to up to these, tried to do what I could to overcome sin in my life. I frustrated myself with the law that i imposed on myself, I wore a yoke of slavery. Tired and exhausted, I grew hopeless in my efforts to try please God.

Then He began to show me more of himself. The freedom of grace. I have not been set free to live in bondage to the law. I am not expected to toil in hopeless efforts of the flesh to please God. New life is only something that the Spirit of God can accomplish and the fruit of the Spirit in a life is so much more beautiful, so much more bountiful than any works, any efforts, any strivings of the flesh.

"...'Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the childen of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.'" (Galatians 4:27)

The desolate one, the lifeless, with whom it is impossible, is promised more children than the one who has the ability to on her own. Because it is God who works. And when I stop working and rest in his work, fruit is borne from what was once lifeless and desolate.

I am finding that fruit and freedom result, not from rules kept and standards met, but from giving to God in dependance to do what I could never do myself.

"For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." (Galatians 6:15)