May you have 2020 Vision this new year!
It’s so cute when Buddy cocks his head at me, trying to understand what I am saying. Since it’s just the two of us living in my condo, he is my main companion. I realize that he doesn’t understand most of what I’m saying, but he does know that I’m at least paying him attention and communicating.
“…God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.”–Apostle John, 1 John 4:9-11
God knew that human race wasn’t “getting it.” Out of love He sent the moral Law through Moses to lead and guide people, to protect them from evil and show them the proper way to live and get along with one another. He created the nation Israel to be a light to the world, to bless and prosper them so that the world would see that the nation that serves and loves God is blessed.
Yet this high and holy God was often rejected to pursue gods of wood and stone because people didn’t comprehend how much He loved them.
People still aren’t getting it.
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Immanuel, God in human flesh (Matthew 1:23). God came down in human form so that we could understand Him and enter into fellowship with Him. Jesus healed people of physical, mental and spiritual diseases. He washed the dirty feet of His disciples. He spoke kindly to a Samaritan woman who was rejected, not only for her sex and race, but also because of her immoral behavior. He rebuked the political/religious leaders who were leading people astray, not for the purpose of destroying them but to get them to wise up. He refused to retaliate against the very men who beat, spit and crucified Him: He didn’t slander or evaporate them.
Jesus came down to speak personally to the human race so that we would understand that God loves us and is love.
To “speak our language”.
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17)” For “Greater love has no one that this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)”
As the angel announced to the shepherds guarding their flocks Christmas night:
“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 1:10-11)”
It is appropriate to celebrate at Christmastime. For it is joyful news that God visited humanity to dwell with us and demonstrate that He loves us. A mighty and innocent Savior who was crucified to take on the Father’s wrath for our sin so that we could be declared righteous in God’s sight without having to earn it, but merely by admitting we are sinners in need of a Savior and inviting Christ into our lives and hearts.
God wants us to get it: That the all powerful God loves us and made a way for imperfect people to be in fellowship with a pure and holy God.
To bring joy into our lives both here and for eternity.
Merry Christmas from Dawn and Buddy. May your holiday season be filled with love and joy.
Some of you may know that Buddy recently moved from Washington State to Arizona with me. With his unusual and goofy personality, he has been great company. I often turn around and find him keeping an eye on me, as in the photo above. (Although in this instance, he may have been thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”)
The Apostle Matthew, a one-time member of a hated group, tax collectors, quoted a prophecy uttered by the Jewish Prophet Isaiah (who lived from 739 BC to 681 BC) from Isaiah 6:14. This quote is in the first book of the New Testament in the Bible, Matthew 1:23:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
The most amazing act of humility occurred when God became flesh and dwelt amongst us. One member of the Holy Trinity, the Son, humbled Himself to dwell within a human womb for 9 months, the most amazing act of trust ever in the Heavenly Father. And an amazing act of trust in His human caretakers, Joseph and Mary. Can you imagine having created the Heavens and the earth and then one day becoming a part of your own creation? And putting aside Your divinity for 9 months?
It boggles the mind.
He became incarnate flesh to die for our sins, taking upon Himself the punishment we deserve for falling far short of God’s holy standards, As an adult He also showed amazing humility and self-control by allowing human beings to spit on Him, beat Him, slap Him, slander and mock Him, and crucify Him. Being both man and God, He had the power to instantly destroy the men who were mistreating Him, yet didn’t utter any threats against them.
People often mock Christians, saying they are arrogant. But isn’t it arrogant to deny that you are a sinner? After death to stand before a totally pure and holy Creator and claim that you are good enough to enter Heaven and dwell in His house? Or to make up your own designer god to justify whatever behavior you want to engage in?
There is some justification for this attitude in that some Christians are not taught properly and believe they earned, or continue to earn, their salvation/good standing with God by their own efforts. That they are better than others because God is so pleased by their good deeds and holiness. So they can come off as arrogant. I get that.
I tried to become an atheist when I was in college because I didn’t like the way some Christians were treating me, but I couldn’t deny that there had to be a Creator (besides other reasons) of this wonderfully complex and interdependent system of life.
But Christians who properly understand the gospel realize that there is no way that a person can justify themselves before God.
“All of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;” (Isaiah 64:6) in the eyes of God. Every person, no matter how good and kind they appear to us, falls far short of God’s perfect standard. I fall short every day. You fall short.
“No one is good except God alone.”–Jesus, Mark 10:18
Nobody is better than anyone else because we are all sinful in God’s eyes apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Our own works and good deeds never meet the mark. God has set the bar too high for anyone to meet.
“Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Jesus, Matthew 5:48
Christians (properly taught) know that their righteousness is a gift from Jesus who purchased it with His blood on the Cross. We claim His righteousness as our own through faith in His works, not our own works. (Galatians 3 by Apostle Paul.) Claim His resurrection from death into life as our own.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 3:8-9, Apostle Paul
This Christmas season, let’s focus on how marvelously humble and loving our Lord Jesus is by coming to earth as a baby, growing up under the authority of human parents and then submitting His will to the Father and dying by the hands of His own creation.
Jesus’ humility boggles the mind.
Buddy is keeping a close eye on me while enjoying the oriental rug I laid down on my bedroom floor. The beautiful rug made the room much more homey and comfortable looking, livening up a lifeless space.
When most people think of Hell, likely what comes to mind is the Dr. Faustus version or the old Hammer Films of shooting flames and pointy-tailed demons, pitchforks, red skin and goatees.
What Hell actually is, is eternal separation from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the triune God. Which is a total absence of the presence of love, as God embodies true love and is the source of all life for eternity.
There are many attributes listed in the Bible of Who God is, but the two passages below are very succinct in their description.
The most famous passage is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 written by the Apostle Paul, often quoted during wedding ceremonies in the USA:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.”
The second passage from Galatians 5:22-23, also by Apostle Paul, describes the fruit of the Holy Spirit and how, as God works in a believer’s life, helps him or her to grow in these qualities throughout their lifetime:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”
What is Hell? A complete absence of these qualities.
An eternal existence with only the exact opposite of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-controlled behavior in one’s life.
“Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”–Jesus to Nicodemus, Pharisee, John 3:3
Please consider Jesus this Christmas season. God came to earth, taking on human flesh, to satisfy the righteous requirements of His Law and to die for our sins, suffering the punishment we deserve for falling short of God’s standards to enter His holy presence.
“…knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance.”–Apostle Paul, Romans 2:4
The Triune God loves you and wants you to spend eternity in His loving presence, “to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy.”–Apostle Paul, Jude 1:24
With love from Dawn and Buddy.