Be Wise This Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve.  All the presents are wrapped. The hustle and bustle is coming to an end. Finally, a chance to sit and open the Bible, and here is where it opened:

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that you learned; avoid them.  For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent.  For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise as to what is good, and simple as to what is evil; then the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Romans 16:17-20

My first thought was, “well, that’s not a very cheery Christmas message.”  And so I read it again.  It is hard, at first, to see the Christmas cheer in this verse, which very clearly contains a warning.  Watch out for those who create dissension and obstacles in opposition to God’s teaching.  Watch out for fair and flattering speech that deceives the hearts of the innocent.

Perhaps this is a perfect message for Christmas, a holiday that is supposed to celebrate our Lord and Savior’s human birth, but has become filled with wrapping paper, scuffles in the mall and “Holiday” celebrations so we do not offend anyone who is not fortunate enough to believe.  A holiday in which we spend more time talking about believing in Santa instead of believing in God.  I am as guilty as the next in terms of getting “caught up” in the “season”, in the obstacles and fair and flattering speech.  We say the words, we sing the songs, but what are we celebrating?  And at the end of the day, do we feel the joy that Jesus offers us, or just the headache of in-laws and high credit card bills?

Paul’s words to the Romans, are a good reminder today.  And his wish for them, is my wish for all of us this Christmas:

Be wise as to what is good, and simple as to what is evil.

May you have a Merry Christmas, filled with the Joy of knowing Jesus.

Father’s Love

I found a new favorite verse in the bible:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”

Romans 8:14-15

I have heard before that we are children of God, and of course that sounds wonderful.  But tonight the part that struck me was that we “did not receive a spirit  of slavery to fall back into fear.”  God does not want slaves.  He does not want us to choose Him out of fear.  To me, the Old Testament often seems full of fear.

God sent His Son and His Spirit so that we would know His love.  His Spirit surrounds us, not to force us into a relationship with God, for what kind of a relationship would that be.  (Can a slave love his master, or is he always looking for the day when he can get away, when he is finally free.)   But rather the Spirit is a constant reminder that  God chooses us. He willingly adopts us.  He is not stuck with us like a birth parent might be.  Not only did He create us, but even with all of our faults and sins, He chooses us again and again every day. He sent His Spirit to lead us to Him, if we choose to follow, so that we can have a real relationship with Him, so that we can run to him like an innocent child runs to her father crying “daddy” as we leap into His arms, with total confidence, trust and the purest love.

Father!

Forgive me for turning away.  Send your Spirit to lead me and guide me.  I want to be with you!

 

 

 

I saw God today

Well, the New England Patriots have made it into the Super Bowl once again.  This will be Tom Brady’s eighth Super Bowl appearance.  He has already won 5.  Some believe Brady may be the best quarterback ever to have played.  And some revere him as a football god.

As I watch the Vikings and Eagles battle it out to see who will play against the Patriots, the Bible opened to Romans:

The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them.  Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.  As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.  While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.

Romans 1:18-23

How often do we exchange the glory of God for that of a mortal man?  It makes me wonder what the Nielsen ratings might be for attendance at church this morning as compared to the ratings of tonight’s playoff football games.  We idolize athletes, movie stars and whoever has the latest social media viral video.   We want to be like them.  We work hard for our own glory, our own reward.  We ignore the truth.

Since I was a child, I have wanted to be one of those who gets to see God.  And I am not talking about just seeing him when I die.   I want to see Him here on earth.  I have prayed for Him to reveal Himself to me.  What struck me in this passage is how foolish I have been.  We have the opportunity to see God everyday.  To witness His power and divinity.  To see the beauty in His creation.  To witness His design behind each of us.  God created Tom Brady, and George Clooney, and you, and me.  Each of us great in our own way, and each of us owing that greatness to our creator.  We see God everyday.  We just sometimes forget to recognize or acknowledge Him.  We become vain in our reasoning (see yesterday’s post on vanity).  We think it is all about us.

God,  Help me to recognize you in all of your creation, in the beauty of the sky as it meets the trees, the purity of the snow falling down, the majesty of the eagle, the amazing strengths and differences of the human creatures that you created in your likeness.  I am in awe when I watch some athletes, but I recognize that their gifts, just like my gifts, come from you alone.  I don’t need to be like them or be like anyone else.  I want to be like you.  I want to be like you made me to be.   You are amazing.  You are mighty and wonderful.  Thank you for your creation.  Thank you for making me.

Conquer Evil With Good

Another day marked by tragic events. I was led to today’s verse by the radio this morning.  Do not let evil overcome you, the radio announcer said, but overcome evil by good.   Tonight I flipped the Bible to Romans and read the entire section:

Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute [you],
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil;
be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

This seems to say it all. If only it were easy to do.  Let love be sincere.  Love is not always easy.  Sometimes we just pay it lip service.  But God’s love is always sincere.  God’s love for us is true even when we do wrong  – even when we hurt Him.  Can we show the same love to others?

Weep with those who who weep (our thoughts certainly go out to those who are suffering). But do not  repay evil with evil.  Live at peace with all.  That is hard.   Even harder is this: bless and do not  curse those who persecute you!

Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit.  It is easy to to rejoice in God when the sun is shining.  We cannot grow slack in zeal when dark clouds surround us.  Even more must we be fervent. Even more must we ignite God’s fire.

Rejoice in hope — no matter the struggle, our hope in the the Lord, in His salvation, is empowering.

Endure in affliction — GOD will see us through!

Persevere in prayer — all we need to do is Pray!

Serve the Lord!

If we do these things, if we persevere in prayer and try to do these things, we will not be conquered.  We will not be conquered by evil. We will conquer evil with good.

Dear Lord,

Take care of those who are suffering tonight.  Wrap them in your loving embrace.  May they rejoice in hope.  And please bless those who have caused the suffering.  I pray that they come to know you.  Wrap them in your loving grace.