Monday, December 24, 2012

Prince of Peace

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." 
Luke 1:76-79

     Father God, I just want to take some time today to thank You for the gift of Your Son. I know that without Him, I am lost. Without the price He paid in freely giving His life as a ransom for me, I would still be a slave to death, doomed to perish without hope. This gift is so tremendous that I struggled to accept it at first, unworthy as I was, until I understood that You gave it freely to me regardless of my worth as the greatest act of undeserved love the world will ever see. By Your gift, freely given, You gave me worth. This is the greatest joy I can ever know, and I am humbled by its magnitude.

     It was not until I began to understand the unspoiled perfection of You, Lord, that I saw the absolute wretchedness of my own state. As I began to understand the incredible power and preeminence of my Creator, I also began to comprehend the foolishness of my own pride. Before I knew You, I mocked You and scoffed at all of Christendom. Now I know that You, oh God, are Reality and You are all that is good and true. That I would mock You... that I would believe my thoughts to have any validity or any relation to reality at all... in the moment I began to know You, I was ashamed. I knew then that my pride was preposterous, and my trespass against You was tremendous. Every bit of selfishness, each speck of hatefulness, anger, lust, and each and every transgression stood out to me suddenly in stark relief.  I was overwhelmed by my impurity in the face of a perfect and holy God. My debt was enormous, and I stood accused, deserving of nothing more than suffering, loathing, and death for my crimes.

    And yet, You paid that debt. Instead of the wrath that I fully deserved, as I looked toward Your face, I saw One willingly indicted in my place, One who stood between me and a holy Creator and bridged an impossible gap. I saw my Lord Jesus, who with compassion in His face, took the punishment and the unbridled wrath of holiness against sin in my stead. I saw the Messiah, my Redeemer, my Prince of Peace, and my King of kings.

     As I began to fathom the depths of Your love, oh God, the price that You paid, oh my Lord Jesus, I knew that my whole life was Yours to do with as You please. I was bought with a price and no longer my own--me, the chief of sinners if ever there was one, who chased after other gods and whose selfishness knew no bounds, me whose mockery must have surpassed even Paul's approval of the stoning of Christians. You saved me, lowly and horrible me, from the chastisement I deserved to the uttermost. You, my King, paid that penalty with Your own life, the spotless Lamb of God who died in my place. Knowing that, I can no longer serve myself, but I am Yours without restraint.
     Because You humbled Yourself to live as a man and even to a disgraceful criminal's death in my place, help me to humble myself and to treat others with greater importance than myself.

     Because You are merciful, help me to extend mercy to everyone, even to those who have hurt or wronged me without cause.

     Because You are patient, grant me the ability to be patient with everyone in every circumstance.

     Because You are pure, show me how to avoid impurity in all its forms, even in my secret thoughts and desires.

      Because You are loving, help me to look upon all men with Your eyes of love that know no envy, boasting, arrogance, or rudeness and show me how to always hope the best of others.

      Because You are good, may it be that my life reflects Your goodness.

      Because Jesus embodied unlimited power restrained only by unlimited humility, not retaliating against those who struck and spit upon Him but instead asking for their forgiveness, I will not retaliate against those who seek to wound me.
       Because You came to serve, I choose to serve You. In Your power, oh Lord, I will have peace in the midst of trial because You have overcome the world.

      Because You gave Yourself for me, may I give myself altogether to You and to others, not holding back nor serving myself but only serving others as You lead me in the way of peace.

     Thank You, Father God, for the unfathomable gift of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 
Luke 2:10

      When I look upon a manger scene, I see my Sovereign Lord lying in an animal's feeding trough, choosing not to wield His authority against humanity but to lay it aside and rescue us. I see an innocence that was never spoiled but instead was honed until it was sharp enough to pierce my heart of stone; an Innocence that threw Himself between me and the slayer's knife, covering me in His spilled blood and hiding me from death.

     When I look upon a manger scene,  I see reckless love, unknowable anguish, and keen and unambiguous passion. I see a solemn and ever-mounting joy unleashed; the Living Water inundating a path impossibly narrow and sweeping all who walk it along into a life of unrelenting wonder and indescribable peace.

     I pray that  you will accept His gift this year. Merry Christmas!

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Matthew 26:55-56
     I am not what one might call a typical American female. I did not like to play with hair as a child. I am two years shy of 40 and have never had a mani/pedi--and in fact only recently learned what that cutsie little abbreviation means. My hair color is natural. I loathe the fickle nature of fashion and in fact have a deep mistrust of everything that is faddish or trendy, be it clothing, home decor, or anything related to diet. I am clueless about accessories, both personal and home-related and I haven't the faintest idea why anyone would own more than one purse at a time. Makeup is something I am trying to learn (yes, at 38), mainly in an attempt to disguise the onset of what appears to be the early stages of zombie-ism and so I can try to have something to teach to my daughters when they become interested. Perhaps also to avoid embarrassing them.
     There are things that I do get, of course. Pregnancy, babies, and nursing. The craving to be loved. The desire to feel beautiful, which I do have to admit is rather awkwardly juxtaposed with some of my other eccentricities. When I was a young woman, those quirks left me feeling quite alone--a drab black ewe in a whole flock of glamorous and sparkly white ones.
     Now that age and experience have mellowed me, I am much more comfortable in being who I am. I am all girl, and some of those peculiarities that used to make me feel freakish have actually been a tremendous boon to both my husband and myself in our marriage. I may explore that topic a bit in another post, but for now I am concentrating on the feeling of lonesomeness. I have felt it most of my life, even within the context of family and particularly in the company of other ladies.
     Lately, however, I have meditated on the lonesomeness of Jesus when He walked the earth. There is no Biblical reference to suggest that He ever felt a deep loneliness, however I cannot help but think that since He was entirely human, having given up His glory and power, He must have been subject to entirely human emotions. Quirky though I may be, I do always have some common ground to fall back on when struggling to relate to another woman. I am, after all, still a woman. Jesus was a man, but He was also the divine Son of God--Immanuel, God With Us, incomprehensible to us and yet not impossible with God, for nothing is impossible with Him.
     Despite that seeming paradox, He did willingly set aside His glory and exchange His majesty and splendor to be born as an infant; the Creator subjecting Himself to the struggles of His creation in the greatest act of humility the world has ever seen. He was tempted. He felt pain. The main difference between Him and us is that in His struggle, He never committed sin. I cannot help but wonder if that was a lonely road to walk. Imagine being the only Person you know who is in complete and perfect harmony with the Father always, walking without sin in a world teeming with it. Imagine having a viewpoint of crystal-clarity and perfection and trying to relate to others whose their entire worldview is tainted, stained, and twisted. When I struggle to relate to another lady, I can almost always fall back on childbirth or children or some common experience that all women share. Jesus had no one who shared His experience of being the Messiah, of dwelling in the midst of iniquity and never tasting of it. No one with whom He could reminisce, "Remember when we had all power and dwelt in the majesty of heaven itself?" He was truly unique.
     When loneliness encroaches on me now, I remember Him. I think of how He must have felt, and how far His experience is from mine because I have sinned and I do share that tainted viewpoint with everyone else on the planet. He did not share in that, He came to rescue us out of it. He alone was perfect, the complete Man as Man was created to be. When I feel rejected, I remember that my Lord, too, "was despised and rejected, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," and my own sorrow is lightened, knowing that, "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," (Isaiah 53: 3-4).  When what He calls me to do is unpopular, I think of Him and I am comforted, knowing that He has borne much more than I ever will and has come out victorious on my behalf. Truly I can never be lonely again, for He will be with me always--and He does understand.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 
Hebrews 4:14-16

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.