I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 The Message
It is here! A new year is on us all, and it will contain lots of shocks and surprises through until December. Some we will be able to cope with easily, and some we will struggle badly with. The good news is that the verse confirms that God has only good plans for us, not just for the year, but always. It’s not God’s fault if our year doesn’t work out the way we wanted.
We are not so good with our own plans or intentions, are we? When we think about it, many of the problems in our lives are self inflicted, and a direct cause of our own decisions, both bad and good. So instead of thinking about resolutions at the start of this year, how about thinking ahead to next New Year, DV, and looking back at the things we wanted to achieve, and those we could have done better? Maybe then with God’s help, we will be better people, and have made a difference. I like the way the Old Testament prophet says it: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19 NIV
Happy New Year, and may it be filled with God’s Love and Blessings!
And now we look back on all this and thank God, an artesian well of thanks! When you got the Message of God we preached, you didn’t pass it off as just one more human opinion, but you took it to heart as God’s true word to you, which it is, God himself at work in you believers! 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Msg
Looking back is not always good, and can be dangerous. Take Lot’s wife as a good example of that, she looked back and turned into a pile of salt! But then she did disobey the express command of God. She did not ‘trust and obey’ as the hymn says. Looking back can be contrary to God’s will, but it can also be hurtful as we remember those times we have been a disappointment to others or to ourselves. We could have done things differently, and we know it without somebody else telling us so. No one knows our failings better than ourselves, and reminders are not necessary!
A new year filled with fresh opportunities beckons, and we can either learn from the mistakes and disappointments of our past, or be condemned to repeat them in the coming year. As the old saying goes, “The one thing we learn from history, is that we don’t learn from history”. For my part, it is more than turning over a new leaf, or trying to make a fresh start. It’s that I must put any time ahead in God’s hands, and be content to do His will, without second guessing it in impatience because things don’t happen how or when I think they should.
We have been blessed with the gift of another year to let God use us, lead us and direct our hearts, so let’s resolve to give God the time to work out our future, whatever it is, and for however long He allows. So, Happy New Year!
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13b, 14 NIV
That’s it for another year. After all the hype that started in late October, the presents are given and received, the big turkey dinner and all the trimmings have been demolished, and the high calorie desserts have been digested (almost). Now, as my old Dad would have said, it’s back to ‘old claes an’ porridge’. It’s a bit of an anti climax when all you have to show for the big day is an expanding waistline.
But the great thing for the people who call themselves Christian, is that it isn’t over. It’s another reminder of the baby who started His earthly journey among us as Immanuel, “God WITH us”, but it wasn’t the end of the story. With the exception of a small family incident when He was only 12 years old, Jesus life is silent until He explodes onto the scene some 18 years later on. It is worth reminding ourselves that Jesus’ ministry lasted a short 3 years, before he was crucified aged 33 in disgrace with common thieves. What a tragic end that started with angels announcing His birth!
When he had received the drink, Jesus said,“It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30 NIV
Hold it right there, because just as the baby Jesus in the manger was NOT the start, because Jesus was with the Father ‘in the beginning’, the Cross was not the end. It is worth keeping in mind the words spoken by our Lord as he hung on the cross, taking our sins on His own body, “IT IS FINISHED”. Christian, take note and take heart, it’s not over yet, and we are comforted by the fact that He is STILL IMMANUEL GOD WITH US, and he is coming back for His own. Amen to that!
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11 NIV
So when you wonder if the troubles of this life are all worth it, because the Christmas season of Jesus birth is past, and the events of the crucifixion get you down, look up and remember Jesus words at that dark time when He talked about the plan of salvation: ‘It is finished’. However....it is not ALL over yet, but it will be one day, and in the words of the old song: ‘It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus’. Yes, there is more to our lives than the trials we have here. The Apostle John sums up our eternal future in these amazing words, so take heart fellow pilgrims:
I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Revelation 21:3-5 The Message
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NIV
You didn’t think we could get to the season of Christmas without some thoughts on the matter, did you? In the words of the song , ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’, and you will know that as you do any last minute shopping and you try to get a place to park your car and then elbow your way through the masses of shoppers. Not funny, but is this really part of what Christmas is all about? It becomes a chaotic world as we all try our best to get everything done before the big day, and no one knows that better than mothers as they try to get their family safely through Christmas. Was it always like this?
We may have sidelined Jesus, the Christ, out of the season but he and his family were also stuck in the middle of a chaotic world when the baby Jesus made an entrance. If you think it is a frantic world at Christmastime now, take a moment and think about Mary and Joseph. They were forced by the rulers of their day to take a trek to their hometown, with thousands of others, just to be counted. No reliable 4x4 to take them, but a donkey! Not a nice paved road, just a track. No 24 hour shops along the way to stop and do some retail therapy, just very basic places to stop for essential rest. Oh and did I say that Mary was very pregnant? How do you think she felt as they bumped along the way, and a caring Joseph would be very anxious for the safety and security of his wife. In a land controlled by soldiers, nothing was sure. They couldn’t even get a half decent place to rest when they got there, just a stable, and of course the baby was born right there. If ever there was a chaotic time for this wee family, this was it!
So if you get to feeling that this is a crazy time of year, and it is nothing but disorganised chaos, you would be right, but when it all started 2,000 years ago, the world was also unsafe, and more chaotic than we can imagine. Let’s be thankful for all that we have, and the greatest gift we could have been given by our Heavenly Father, the baby who became our salvation, Jesus the Christ, also known as the Messiah, Emmanuel, God WITH us, who came to save His people (that’s us!) from their sins. Now, wasn’t all that original chaos worth it? Yes, and a resounding Amen!
Have a Happy and Blessed (even if chaotic) Christmas!!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7 NIV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV
There is a lot made of peace, especially at Christmastime and rightly so, because the Son of God came to earth as a baby to live, grow, and give us peace. He is the ‘Prince of Peace’ and not just for a season. There is only one letter missing in the phrase ‘Price of Peace’ and it tells us of the cost of that elusive thing we can’t quite grasp, ‘peace’.
Nations desperately need it. People need it, as do individual hearts. The verses show that we should not be anxious about anything, and that is a tall order, but the key is in the words ‘prayer and petition’. It’s good to want peace, but do we want it enough to lay hold of God and petition Him for it until He answers?
At a personal level, I have recently found myself saying something like, “I am at peace with that” and it conveys a deeply held belief that I accept the will of God in something I have prayed about, and the resulting answer has given peace. Not just a general peace, but specific to my prayer. In fact I will go further. God has answered in a way I had not thought possible, but better than I could have hoped, so peace naturally follows. Yes, I still get anxious, and yes I will still worry from time to time, but when I get an answer from God which gives me peace, I am more ready to believe that He will answer ‘over and above’ my prayer next time. He will provide the peace, and my faith grows. What a combination, and what a great God we serve!
The old phrase, “The elephant in the room” comes to mind sometimes. There are subjects which are avoided like the plague when people get together, which are so obvious and indisputable, that you have to ask yourself why is it avoided, and not tackled head on? These elephants can be about the Christian’s attitude to death, serious or terminal illness, same sex ‘marriage’, or maybe a massacre of school children, and we either don’t know how to respond, or more likely we don’t want to admit that the elephant really IS there.
So we don’t talk about it in case we offend some elephant lovers. The elephant is ignored, or used to hide behind, or can’t be seen because it isn’t YOUR elephant. There might even be a few people with very loud voices who tell you that the nice elephant is really your friend, and is not the problem. Then of course it might stop looking like an elephant, and start to look like something else, and much smaller, like a very friendly and protective pet.
Hmmmm..... Ok, so let’s go on ignoring the elephant! That’s easier for everybody, right?
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Prov 12:15 NIV
I love the season of Christmas, and all the attractions of the season, including the last minute rush, the tinsel and the tree. But the presents give me a problem, because I don’t have much of an imagination, so I rely heavily on the help and advice of my daughters, and even my grandchildren. Ok I admit it, I like them being involved in my Christmas too.
The ‘reason for the season’ is nothing like anything that is pushed at us through the TV/Radio/Magazine adverts. It has nothing at all to do with that nice red suited happy Santa-man and his reindeer. Sorry Santa, because I do like you and even your reindeer who must be the best fed animals on Christmas Eve. The symbology of the tree with lights and decorations, and gifts laid round the base is not lost on me, but it’s not about that, and I love all of this too. Oh and then there is the family dinner, as we sit round a bountiful feast, fit for a king or queen, and enjoy each other’s company, especially those we might not have seen for months. It is good to be together with friends and revisit the strength of your friendships. It’s not that either.
The baby in the stable stall does not bellow out ‘ho ho ho’ as we approach Him. He does not need our decorated trees and gifts, after all He is the Creator of everything anyway. In this season, let us remember that HE IS THE GIFT, and not someone we need to keep happy by giving to Him. Except your heart, but that’s not in the usual Christmas narrative we see or hear is it? The old saying is still true, “Wise men (and women) came to Jesus, and they still do today”.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NIV
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called WonderfulCounselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV
We really need one in the world today, don’t you agree? In among the tinsel and toys of the Christmas season, there are places around the world where the best negotiators and counsellors are desperately needed. The dispute between the Israeli people and the surrounding Arab/Islamic nations is one, and the Arab Spring has brought about its own troubles within these emerging democracies. Closer to home, we have the ongoing sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland, and the UK and Scottish governments to legalise same sex marriage.
Having a ‘go between’ in negotiations is essential, and preferably one who can be impartial and yet judge in clear and acceptable and understandable tones. I think it is fair to say that we also need such a person in our own lives, because we all without exception have done something wrong, and have needed someone to speak on our behalf. I love the verse on a personal level, and more so at Christmastime, but look at the phrase again.
This same baby Jesus who left heaven to live an earthly life, was crucified, but rose again, is no ordinary counsellor. He is a ‘wonderful counsellor’! Look at the two words this way: Wonderful:= awesome, wondrous, miraculous, astonishing, amazing, astounding, phenomenal, unique, marvellous, lovely, admirable, magnificent, enjoyable. Counsellor:= advisor, mentor, advocate, instructor, teacher, guide. So a “Wonderful Counselor” means an amazing guide, who leads us on an astonishing journey! Let’s make this Christmas the start of our journey with the best guide we could have: Emmanuel ‘God WITH us’.
When the city came into view, he wept over it. “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you! But now it’s too late. In the days ahead your enemies are going to bring up their heavy artillery and surround you, pressing in from every side. They’ll smash you and your babies on the pavement. Not one stone will be left intact. All this because you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.” Luke 19:42-44 (The Message Translation)
I do not have any special gifts as far as my faith is concerned, but I could not fail to see the significance of this verse after the recent UN vote to give the Palestinians a form of recognition as a nation, needing a country to call their own. Of course there is a long history of bad blood between the Jews and the Muslims, which goes way back to Biblical Old Testament times when Ishmael became the father of the Islamic faith, and Israel who became the father of many nations, and was Blessed by God.
Perhaps like many, you didn’t pay much attention to the vote in the United Nations. After all, it is not an unreasonable thing for a nation of people to want a piece of land to call their home. It is reasonable as long as that country wants to live in peace, and at peace (there is a difference) with its neighbours. I think that’s where those who voted against this ‘reasonable’ UN request were coming from. It is not unreasonable to show that those against were largely ‘Christian’ in outlook, and those for the recognition were mostly ‘Islamic’.
The people of Gaza and other areas who want some of ‘their land’ back, as they see it, are led and governed by Hamas, a terrorist group with strong ideological links to those of Iran. Do we need to be reminded that the majority of Islamic Palestinians, and all of Iran, do not recognise Israel as a nation, and have it on their open agenda to annihilate the Jewish nation, country and people? Have you looked at a map of the middle east, and where the State of Israel is located? Take note of the nations and their political and religious allegiances which surround it, and then read the verse again. This was the time when Jesus wept over Jerusalem and its people for rejecting Him, and He knew clearly what was ahead. Might be a good idea for us to take note too. Just saying!