Tag Archive | Christmas

To Help Us Understand, 1 John 4:8-11

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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.

 

 

True Humility, Matthew 1:23

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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.

Absolute perfection.

“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.

 

 

We’re of Infinite Value, Matthew 1:23

Buddy.Hiding.Santa

I like to dress Buddy up in little sweaters and for Christmas, a Santa outfit. He wasn’t too happy this Christmas morning, as you can see.

What is amazing is that the 2nd part of the eternal and omnipotent God, Jesus Christ, came down and put on human flesh and dwelt amongst us (John 1:14). The Almighty God who created all things, the Heavens and the earth (Colossians 1:15-16), who existed outside of time and space and the material world, humbled Himself to take on human form, lived in a human womb for 9 months to subsequently enter in our world. By doing this, He could personally interact with us and demonstrate to us who God is (John 14:8-10).

“‘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.'”–Matthew 1:23

But there is another aspect of this incarnation that is truly wonderful. By taking on human flesh, God declared that human beings were of infinite value.

Catholic philosopher Dr. Robert P. George theorizes that modern culture is promoting the ancient Greek heresy of Gnosticism (neo-Gnosticism), the idea that only the spirit is sacred and the flesh is not, that the mind is inferior to the body and is a breakable unity; that the human personality/mind is distinct from the physical body it inhabits. “That the mental, the spiritual, is what ultimately matters.” That it was the philosopher René Descartes who introduced this distinction into our modern civilization. Whereas Christianity teaches that we are whole beings, spirit and flesh. We cannot separate the two.

God declared that the flesh is of infinite value by taking on human form Himself. He didn’t come down as a spirit being only or die on the Cross as a spirit being only or rise as a spirit being only. He was born of a virgin female, lived and worked and preached as a human male, died on the Cross in the flesh and rose bodily in the flesh.

The human form is important to God, the culmination of His Creation (Genesis 1:27). We are made in HIS IMAGE. He declared His creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

You are of infinite value. You are NOT an accident of the universe, a random result of natural selection.

God designed you and foreknew you (Psalm 139:13). All of you. Your mind and your physical body.

So valuable that God Himself died for you on the Cross for your sin, taking the punishment you deserved. And when you accept His death for your sin, He gives you eternal life by regenerating your spirit, making it alive.

The miracle of Christmas is not just that God came down to dwell amongst us, but that He loves and values us so much.

And one day, if you are born-again by the Spirit of God, you will be resurrected in a perfected body.

A fleshly body, a healthy body, a beautiful body.

God loves you.

Love and Merry Christmas from Dawn and Buddy.

***

PS. They nearly doubled my workload in my day job. I was exhausted for at time but hope to be rejuvenated during the holiday season to get back to a weekly posting.

Mr. Darcy and Christmas: Genesis 3:9

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My beloved Buddy is wearing his Christmas holiday bowtie and collar. He wasn’t too happy about it and is looking rather miffed. Yet, he is naturally a very sweet dog and makes good company. If someone were to judge him solely by this photo, they would get a very wrong impression of Buddy’s personality.

During the Thanksgiving holiday season I watched one of my favorite movies, “Pride & Prejudice,” with the lovely Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. I particularly enjoy Donald Sutherland’s version of Mr. Bennet.

As many who love the story know, the hero, Mr. Darcy, makes an error in judging the character of Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s sister. Because Jane is so shy, she doesn’t make her interest in Mr. Darcy’s friend clear as to whether she loves him as a man or just a friend. So Mr. Darcy separates his friend from Jane to protect his feelings.

Elizabeth is quite angry that her sister’s heart was broken. She considers Mr. Darcy cold and snobbish. Mr. Darcy proves his love to Elizabeth by rescuing the Bennet family from a foolish choice by one of her sisters that could ruin the family’s reputation and standing in the community. Elizabeth learns, through Mr. Darcy’s actions, that he is actually a good man and is also rather shy in revealing his true feelings and nature to those he doesn’t know well. And falls in love with him.

Only because Mr. Darcy is willing to risk being rejected a second time by proposing again to Elizabeth (after she rejected him for being a snob for his poorly worded first proposal), does Elizabeth find great happiness in marriage.

When contemplating how the author, Jane Austen, put the plot and characters together, I realized that Mr. Darcy is a sort of Christ figure. Despite his rejection by Elizabeth, he continued to do good for her family, with a great financial gift to rescue her sister from ruin, to prove his love for her. Love motivated him to continue to pursue Elizabeth and risk rejection.

“Where are you?”–Genesis 3:9

When I finally realized the true meaning of God calling out for Adam and Eve in the Garden, it broke my heart.

God is also misunderstood and rejected by billions of his beloved humanity. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve didn’t trust God’s love for them and listened to Satan instead, thinking God was holding out on them so they disobeyed. They didn’t believe that God truly loved them.

When God called out, “Where are you?”, He knew where Adam and Eve were physically. But they became spiritually separated from Him. At one time, they were in perfect union and fellowship with God. Sin/disobedience separated them spiritually so that they no longer felt His great love for them in their spirits. Their spirits died.

We were created to be triune beings, like God: soul, body and spirt. When the human race rejected fellowship with God, the Holy Spirit left the human race. As a result, each one of us is born missing the Life of God within us. We are all born with a God-shaped hole within our being.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”–Jesus, John 10:10

Every human being feels that emptiness inside. They try to fill it with things that can never fill it: food, sex, entertainment, parties, alcohol, travel, drugs, shopping, etc. We can never get enough of what we’re trying to fill that emptiness with. These attempts to fill the hole never work because we were created to be filled with the Life of Christ.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing;”–John 6:63

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), …so that in the ages to come He might show the surprising riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”–Ephesians 2:4-7

Because we don’t trust that God is good, we don’t come to Him. Yet, He continues to pursue each one of us because of His great love for us. He wants to give us, not only eternal life with Him, but His life by giving us the Holy Spirit, making us whole once again. This is what the term “born again” means: the Holy Spirit coming to live within you when you repent of your sin, admitting that you need God to be in charge of your life, accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Your spirit is united with the Spirit of Christ and you become spiritually alive.

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and confess in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”–Romans 10:9

Lord, meaning, “Immanuel, God with us.”–Matthew 1:23

Christmas is about God pursuing us, sending His son to live among us so that we can understand and believe that He is good and that He truly loves us.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; …And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”–Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas from Dawn and Buddy

God bless you. Thank you for reading my Buddy blog.

 

Focusing on Joy: Hebrews 12:2

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Here in the Seattle area most people look forward to watching the Seahawks football team play. As I am typing, fireworks are blowing off, signaling that the Hawks have scored. Buddy is less than enthusiastic about the fireworks, however, and is cowering near my feet.

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”–Hebrews 12:2

Jesus was able to endure the agonizing pain and humiliation of the cross because His focus was on the end result, the great joy of reconciling humankind to Himself, removing the sin barrier separating us from God. His sitting down at the right hand of the Father symbolizes, (I’ve been told by spiritual authorities I respect), the finished work of Christ on the Cross. There is nothing to add to His work. “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”–Apostle  Paul, Romans 10:9

As Christians, we have something far more wonderful to look forward to: Our lives have a very happy ending.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”–Apostle Paul, Romans 8:18

Our lives are like fairy tales. There are great dangers and sorrows to be faced and overcome, but in the end (as in most of the traditional tales) there is a happy ending. I encourage you to imitate Christ and keep your focus on the end game, the goal line: our joyful eternity with God.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.”–God, Isaiah 65:17

One day, all of these present sufferings will pass away and we’ll live in never-ending joy.

God bless you this Christmas Season.

Dawn and Buddy

NASB Version of the Bible quoted from.