CLOTHED IN … WHAT?

Several years ago, the women of my church got together to sew dresses for children in  Southeast Asia and Africa who are cared for in a ministry called Homes of Love.  The children who were orphaned or abandoned are brought into a home where they are loved and cared for by their house mother.   [For more information about Homes of Love and the wonderful work that they are doing, see their website at homesoflove.org/]  The homes undertake a marvelous work, all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the Homes of Love motto is “Creating Families for Life”. The ladies in our church wanted to help by creating and sending some much-needed clothing.  Look at the impact that having new clothes can make in a child’s life.

At the time this project was undertaken, I was still employed full time, so I was not able to join in this effort.   Now, however, retirement has given me some time during the day that I could do something like this,, on a smaller scale of course, but I didn’t even think about it until Christmas when my husband surprised me with a new sewing machine.

1st Homes of Love dress - picture 2
First dress with cute buttons

 

I have now completed three dresses for the precious little girls. 

2nd Homes of Love Dress - Copy
Second dress, now with a pocket.

They are not professionally done, that’s for sure, and I know where the mistakes were made and remedies attempted; but, they were made because of love for our Lord and for His children.

3rd Homes of Love dress
Third dress with decorated pocket.

3rd Homes of Love dress - decorated pocket

This project has prompted me to consider the relationship between clothing and our spiritual well-being.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, in the Renewing Your Mind broadcast entitled “Clothed in Righteousness,” comments on the first covering mankind had.  [You can access this broadcast by going to renewingyourmind.org and then accessing the archive listing for January 16, 2018.] 

Immediately after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, scripture says:

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:7-8

Prior to their sin, the first couple did not know embarrassment; they did not have feelings of shame because they were naked.  They were in perfect union with each other and with God. Their bodies certainly were not shameful; they were made specifically by God for each other.   In fact, each evening the Lord would come and walk with them through the garden.  No clothing, no shame, nothing to interfere with their enjoyment of their God.

But all that changed in an instant, when they ate the fruit from the forbidden tree; their eyes were opened, and Adam and Eve now felt embarrassment, shame, guilt.  They sewed fig leaves to make themselves a covering, to help them hide and when they heard the Lord, they ran for the trees to hide themselves from their God.  Note that their fig leaves were not clothes – they were coverings.  The intent was not to exchange nakedness with fig leaves; the exchange was between innocence and obedience in sharp contrast with sin, shame and guilt.

We are like that too, are we not?  When we have disobeyed God, or even merely our parents or employers, we are shameful, and we hide ourselves.  Guilt and shame are powerful agents for hiding, trying to disappear so that our actions will not be found out or, if they become known, at least we will not be around to see the consequences. 

God, of course, knew where they were and what they had done.  He didn’t need them to provide information to Him – He needed them to understand the full ramifications of their actions.  So, after they admitted what they had done, God punished them, issuing curses on the serpent, the woman and the man.  Then God said something miraculous, and indicative of His love for His creation.  In speaking to the serpent, God said:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

This is known as the “protoevangelium”, a fancy word meaning that it is the first gospel, the first good news found in Scripture, and it comes in the third chapter of the first book in the Bible.  It pronounces the curse on mankind because of Adam’s sin but God does not stop there … He goes on to tell of His provision for a Savior who would take the curse upon Himself, thus relieving His people from their sin.   Think of it — even though God cursed Adam and Eve because of their disobedience, their actions did not take God by surprise!  Genesis 3:15 tells us that God had already a plan in mind for a Savior who could restore the relationship between mankind and God, the Savior known as the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is good news indeed, but for Adam and Eve, they were still in the trees with their fig leaves.  God could have told them to get out of the garden, to leave everything that He had given them, and get out!  Go roam wherever you want but you are not welcome here, under my shelter, under my protective hand. You disobeyed, and you brought this on yourself.

But instead, the Lord provided tangible evidence of His love and care, despite their disobedience.

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21

Before He cast them out of the garden, God himself made garments of skins for clothing of the man and his wife.  Dr. Sproul calls this “God’s first act of redemption,” and the first act that required the spilling of blood.  God did not cover Adam and Eve to hide them, He clothed them with skins.  Just as blood was shed when God clothed our first parents after they sinned, He offers to clothe us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ because of the shed blood of our Lord and Savior.

Scripture says that our best works, our best clothes, our best words and actions are as filthy rags before the Holy God.  So, we, like Adam and Eve, need clothes from God so that we can stand before Him.

The prophet Isaiah said it this way:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10

Beloved, Jesus Christ, our Lord has clothed us in His righteousness.  Praise His Holy Name!

Hear now the song “Clothed in Righteousness” as presented on the album entitled Glory to the Holy One.  The lyrics are presented below so you can follow the words as they sung.

 

Clothed in Righteousness, Lyrics

Fallen race in Eden fair
Exposed and full of shame
Fled we naked from Thy sight
Far from Thy Holy Name

Refrain

Clothe us in Your righteousness
Hide filthy rags of sin
Dress us in Your perfect garb
Both outside and within

 

Sent from the garden in the east
Outside of Eden’s gate
Banished there from Thy pure light
Were Adam and his mate

Scarlet souls are now like snow
By Thy atoning grace
Crimson hearts become like wool
For Adam’s fallen race

Refrain

 

No work of ours is good enough
For evil to atone
Your merit, Lord, is all we have
It saves, and it alone

Refrain

 

Father, I pray that the words of this post and the music presented here would be used by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who read the message and hear the music.  Thank You, Father, for Your Spirit and for Your love as You clothe us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – HOLINESS

When you think of holiness, or of being holy, what image do you conjure up in your mind?  Someone who is a “goodie-two-shoes” or a person who speaks and acts as if he is “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”?  Or do you not have any idea of what holiness is, so you don’t have any image to ponder?

I realize that holiness is not something that we think about on a daily, moment-by-moment basis but, if we want to know God, we should consider it because holiness is fundamental to God’s character. 

Holiness is synonymous with God’s total purity and separation from the rest of creation.  Consider Adam and Eve’s reaction after they ate the forbidden fruit and God came to visit with them in the Garden of Eden.

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:8

Up until this time, Adam and Eve had enjoyed God’s presence with them, but when He came to them that day, they hid.  They instinctively knew that God was holy and they were not, they had disobeyed, they had sinned and God could not look upon sin.  They hid among the trees.

Consider when God called to Moses from the burning bush, after Moses walked closer to see it, God said:

“”Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:5-6

Moses surely was not afraid of a burning bush … it was a distance away from him and the flock, no threat.  He went over to investigate because it appeared that the bush was not being consumed by the fire. 

Why was the place Moses approached “holy” ground?  It was not because the sand was any different than the sand that was all around Moses in the wilderness.  It was not because the bush was different than all the others in the area.  It was because God was there, so Moses was in the presence of the Holy God.     

It was at that point that God spoke to him, and notice Moses’ response — he hid his face, he was afraid!  Why?  Because then Moses knew that he had encountered the holy God

“Holy” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “qodesh”, and it means “apartness”, “sacredness”, and “separateness.”  This set-apartness is evident in the Old Testament in texts such as Leviticus 20:7.

Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.”

Here God is telling the people to consecrate themselves, in other words to sanctify, to dedicate, to separate themselves for a special purpose or use. 

In the Book of Acts we read:

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.””

Acts 13:2

Setting apart for a specific task from God is one way we acknowledge that God is holy and that even people who are doing His work should be separated from that which is worldly or ungodly.

God’s holiness can be understood as moral purity, although it is much more than that.  His holiness, His purity, is eternal and incorruptible, there is no time or likelihood that God will, at some point, no longer be holy or pure.  This total purity, total separation from anything that is sinful, explains why God gave detailed commands in the Old Testament about the way mankind could approach God. 

USED Canterbury cathedral view of the altar area
Looking toward the altar in Canterbury Cathedral,
Canterbury, England, if man can build such a glorious place, imagine what Isaiah saw!

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Isaiah 6. The prophet Isaiah had a vision of God and he described it as follows:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.””

Isaiah 6:1-8

Forgive me for quoting so much from the passage but I want you to get the full impact of Isaiah’s vision.  Just a look at the description of the LORD.  Listen to the angels, the host of heaven, calling “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” 

What is Isaiah’s reaction in this vision?  Essentially the same as Moses’ reaction to God’s presence.  Isaiah said “WOE IS ME!”  “I AM LOST!”  “I AM … UNCLEAN!”  In his vision, Isaiah was afraid because he instantly recognized that God is holy, and he was not.

Centuries after Isaiah wrote of his vision, John was on the island of Patmos and wrote the Book of Revelation, citing the same words as Isaiah heard.

“At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. … And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!””

Revelation 4:2,8

God’s holiness is one of the primary reasons why the advent of Christ is so amazing.  Because of Jesus’ coming to this earth and dying on the cross, men, who were once unable to come before God, now can kneel before the throne of God and worship Him forever and ever. 

Because of the cross and His resurrection, because of our faith in Him as Lord and Savior, we no longer must hide our face or be afraid of God.  We now can join the heavenly chorus and shout “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!”  We can face God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and, rather than hiding our face, we can come to the throne of God and call Him “Abba, Father.” Praise His Holy Name!

Listen now to the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” s on the album  “Hymns for all the Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort” from Concordia Publishing House.

Father, I pray that I would never lose sight of the wonder and glory of Your holiness.  I praise Your name that Jesus Christ died so that His righteousness would cloth my sinfulness, so that I could join with the heavenly chorus and praise Your Holy Name.

SIGNS – FOLLOWED OR IGNORED?

It seems as though our culture is overrun with signs.  Billboards are all along the highways and some are digital, enabling the billboard owner to multiple “signs” displayed for all to see.

Some signs are humorous.  There is a van for a lock and key company which has, along the bottom of their vehicle, the statement “Cheer up it can always be worse.”

Some signs are informational. 

Blenheim Palace signpost
Signpost at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England

Some signs are confusing even though they have been in use for over 60 years.

Road signs from England the magic roundabout
The Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England

(For a video on how this roundabout works, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OGvj7GZSIo.)

Other signs are rather straightforward.

Texas sign
Welcome sign at the Texas state line

Sign - Hats and Boots in Nashville TN

Hats Boot Co. sign in Nashville, Tennessee

There is another sign on the highways that we have no difficulty following, because we know that an accident will surely occur if we disobey its warning.

One Way sign cropped
One-Way Sign along the highway

No matter what your language may be, when you see the arrow going in a certain direction, you understand that such direction is the only correct one.

In the Bible, Jesus tells His disciples that He will be leaving them very soon.  John chapter 14 details this conversation between Jesus and his closest friends:

“”Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:1-6

How many ways are there to God the Father?  Just one – belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Just as the One-Way sign points to the correct direction to be followed on the highway to avoid disaster or death in an accident, Scripture details the one way to avoid disaster and eternal death.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross for our salvation.  He said it clearly – “I am THE way”.  He did not say “I am A way” as if there were more than one option.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:12

Signs – they are helpful, instructive, humorous, and some remind us of eternal consequences. 

I pray that if you have not sought the Lord, please do so now.  Scripture has told us everything that we need to obtain eternal life.  Now is the day of salvation.  Now is the time to go the right direction on that narrow road to salvation. 

Father, I pray that those who read this missive would be touched by Your Spirit.  If they are already believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, may their faith be renewed, and their spirit be encouraged by these words. If the reader is not already a believer in our Lord, I pray that Your Spirit would quicken their heart and that they would realize their need for the Savior. 

 

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – ETERNALITY

We know that God created the world and everything in it.  We are told that in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  In these verses we are told that God created all things in six days, He rested on the seventh day after proclaiming His creation to be “very good”.  Genesis 1:31.   On the fourth day of creation, God set the sun and moon into action thereby establishing the time that governs us throughout our lives. 

dar-library-clock-c
Clock in the DAR Library, Washington, D.C.

We, along with all of the created order, have a beginning and an end.  In other words, simply put, we are bound by time; we are finite; we are not eternal. God, however, is not so bound.  God is eternal and His eternality is one of His attributes.          

Wayne Grudem says:  “God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time.” [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 168]

Louis Berkhof notes that the eternal nature of God means that He “possesses the whole of His existence in one indivisible present.” [Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 60]

Being outside of time is virtually impossible for us to comprehend.  However, it is an attribute of God which is fundamental to our thought about our Creator and Savior. 

In Exodus Chapter 3 God is speaking with Moses and, in answer to Moses’ question about Who was sending him on the mission to free the Israelites from Egyptian captivity, God says:

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'””

Exodus 3:14

God will exist undiminished everlastingly into the future, and He has existed identically throughout the infinite past. For this reason, God said to Moses “I AM WHO I AM”.

David understood God’s attribute of eternality when he wrote:

“But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.”

Psalm 102:12

Not only is God the Father eternal in His nature, but this same eternality extends to Jesus Christ, the eternal Son.  He existed eternally before His incarnation as the Firstborn over creation, even though at that time He did not have human form. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8

Peter wrote of the eternality of the Lord in words that we can understand, even if we cannot wrap our minds around what it means:

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

2 Peter 3:8

The attribute of eternality is a wondrous truth for the believer God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.  This attribute gives us confidence in our faith and in the salvation and preservation that He gives to us as we live within time.  We can live without fear because God is always with us.

Eternality – a word that we don’t use or think about, but it is a word that gives hope, security and confidence as we rest in God’s eternal nature and in His eternal promises.

Father, I cannot understand how You can exist forever … I cannot even understand the concept of forever since all that I have known will last just a short time.  But I understand Your name – I AM – and I bow at Your feet in thanksgiving that the God of creation would rescue me from sin and claim me as His child, eternally.

A NEW SERIES: THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD

We have entered a new year, 2018.   In considering what God has done for us through the past year, I was contemplating what we believe about Who our God is, what is He like, what is His nature?  In other words, what are the attributes of our God?

So, as we begin this year, we will consider the attributes of God as a special “series” of posts each Friday for the next several months. A couple of notes at the outset of this series.

  • There are numerous listings of the attributes of our God, and I will not be covering each and every one. 
  • I certainly will not consider the posts here to be the final authority on any of the topics, but I pray that we would think about the nature of God and His attributes and realize that each of them have a significant impact on our faith in Him. 
  • There will probably be times when pictures are not appropriate for the post topic.  So please bear with me.  
  • There will likely be many questions, comments, and elements of the attributes that I do not cover in the post and tangential positions that I did not explore.  I would encourage you to let me know of your comments, etc., and if there are questions I will gladly respond.  But, the posts are not intended to be exhaustive studies on the attributes.  
  • I pray that the studies presented here will whet your appetite for your own further, more detailed, study of the attributes of God so that your understanding of Him will be deeper than ever before. 

If your family is like mine, on New Year’s Eve we held out until midnight when we watched the ball drop to mark the beginning of the new year.  As we were ticking off the minutes to that moment when the calendar changed and 2017 was gone forever, we pondered just where the “old year” went?  How did time fly away so quickly?  What have we done with the time that God has granted to us? 

Since “time” was so paramount in our thoughts that evening, I thought the best place to begin in consideration of the attributes of God would be His Eternality – that is His eternal nature.  That post will begin the series next Friday, January 12.

As we begin to consider this topic, I would ask that you pray for guidance and that, together, we will grow to be even more in love with our God, His Son, and His Holy Spirit than ever before.

Blessings to each of you, my dear followers, as we embark on our 2018 journey.

 

LOVE IS A COMMAND — NOT A FEELING!

We speak of love often in our conversation with others.  We love people, animals, objects and activities and it is usually a love that is conditioned on a multitude of different factors.  For example, we love those related to us in a different way than we do our general acquaintances. 

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

We love some flowers and not others. 

Flower garden in Maine from Bette
Flower garden in Maine

We love certain foods while others wouldn’t eat it or even touch it! 

 

Fish at Dancing Bear Lodge
Sea Bass with head and skeleton. Delicious said our son, while his wife wouldn’t even watch him eat it!

In our modern culture, we fall in love and things are heavy with passion and emotion.  But, when difficulties arise or when someone younger/prettier/richer comes along, we fall out of love; and often there is just as much heated passion against the other party as there was when we fell in love in the first place. 

The bottom line is that there is almost always self-motivated volition involved in human love.  And, we consider love as an emotion, as something that we feel, and when the feeling is gone or when it is transferred somewhere else, so is the love.

But, not so with God.  Scripture says that God IS love.  It is one of the attributes of our God – it is part and parcel of His nature. 

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:8

Indeed, we are COMMANDED to love the Lord our God, and not just a little bit or for a limited time!   In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read:

 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Jesus reiterated this commandment in Matthew 22:37 and then He expanded the command in Mark 12:29-31 by saying we are to love God as commanded in Deuteronomy, but then we are also to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. 

Jesus took love out of the emotional/spiritual world and puts it into the physical/material world.  Love is action rather than mere emotion.  We see our neighbor and we are not to have mushy, mind consuming passion for our neighbor; we are to love him/her.

 The Apostle John elaborates on the commandment to love others when he says:

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have 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 also ought to love one another.

We love him, because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:9-11, 19

There it is in a nutshell – we love God BECAUSE He first loved us.  We cannot love Him on our own – we are sinners and He is holy.  We can’t do anything spiritually to make Him love us — all our “good works” are like filthy rags in comparison to the holiness of God.   See Isaiah 64:6.  BUT, God Himself gave His Son so that we could approach Him, so that we could love Him, so that we could love others through Him.

Since we received love while we were undeserving sinners, we certainly should not have any trouble following the commandment to love others, whether they are loveable or not, whether they return the love to us or not, whether they like us or not, whether they can help us achieve some goal or not. 

There should be no reciprocal obligation in our love to others.  God’s love to us is one directional – He initiates it and gives it to us through His grace.  Yes, we are to love Him in return, but the full commandment is that we love others as he loved us. 

That is the way we are to love others, especially those who are of the family of faith.  We may not agree with each other on various issues, but if we are Christians, if we have been adopted into the family of God, we are commanded to love each other.  

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2

God loved us even when we were dead in our sin and unholy before Him.  He sent Jesus Who walked in love and gave Himself to the death on the cross so that we could be accepted by God, so that our sin would be paid for, and so that we would be granted the righteousness of Jesus.  When we understand the gravity of our sin and the holiness of God, we will see that we can and must love others unconditionally, because but for the grace of God we would be in the same condition before God. 

Others will know that we have been adopted into God’s family by the way we love them. 

In this new year, love others as He loved us.  Unconditionally, whole-heartedly, and without judgment.  Let our love for others be our witness of our love for Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Take love out of the world of platitudes and put it into action, real life, concrete, discernible and undeniable action.

Father, I pray that the meditation of my heart is acceptable to you this day.  I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to love others as You have loved me. And I pray that your Word would be used by the Spirit to illuminate the hearts of those who do not know You. 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU.

We hear that cry everywhere we go.  “Merry Christmas to you!? At least we hear it unless the speaker doesn’t want to acknowledge Christmas in which case it is “Happy Holidays”.  That seems to cover the waterfront of celebrations at this time of year. 

Then we also hear the phrase “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”.  We see it on greeting cards, plaques, china, even coffee mugs at Cracker Barrel. 

I certainly agree that Jesus came to earth as a baby born to a Virgin, although whether it was December 25 is somewhat in doubt.  I am glad that the phrase at least indicates that we are celebrating Christmas because our Savior came, and if it encourages people to think about our Lord’s birth then I am glad for it.

But is He really the reason for the season?  In a blog post by Jill McIlreavy on her website Mustard Seed Blog entitled “Jesus is NOT the Reason for the Season” she argues that the phrase is theologically wrong – WE are the reason for the season.  [You can find her blog at https://mustardseedblogs.com and I encourage you to read her post that gives her thoughts about this phrase.]

You see, Jesus did not leave His home in heaven because He wanted to visit our planet, or because He wanted to take a “road trip” or because He wanted to see how the “other half” lived! 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8

He left glory to come to this earth in humiliation: born of woman, in a cattle shed, with no clothing other than rags.  The manger became a king-sized bed as it was where the King of Kings was laid.

king-size-bed
The manger that provided a place to sleep for our Savior was, on that day, a bed for the King.

Think about it – the One who was coexistent with God the Father from all eternity, even before the world was created and before His plan for mankind was put in place, the Creator of the world and everything in it had absolutely nothing upon His birth.  The One who could call legions of angels to do His bidding had nothing but a mother and stepfather as the Babe was surrounded by farm animals.

Why would He do such a thing?  Why would He suffer such indignities as these?  He was despised by those in power from the moment He arrived.  Then after three years of declaring His message, He was rejected by the very people He came to save.  He was betrayed and belittled; He was mocked and beaten; He was crucified.  He voluntarily died a death so horrible that only one of His followers remained with Him.  Why would He do that?

Because God loved YOU and ME.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17

He came so that WE could come to God in repentance and humility, so that WE could hear the Holy Spirit tugging at our hearts and pointing us to Him, so that WE could receive forgiveness of our sins. He knew what awaited Him on earth … He willingly went through agony because of God’s love for us!

He came because of us  – WE are the reason for the season.

Father,  I thank You and praise Your holy name for sending Your Son from heaven and for His obedience in coming to this planet to live a sinless life that we could not live and for dying a death that we deserved but which He did not, all so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have a life here and forevermore with Him in heaven. 

SEASONS – GOD SENDS THEM ALL.

In the English language, we use the word “seasons” with reference to many different things.

For example, we talk about the season of childhood, when new things are learned and experienced every moment of every day.  Sometimes those lessons are hard and painful, other times they are fun and silly.

2008 - 12 Mom and Dad 071
The child wanting to be like the big boys!

Then there is the adolescent season, when lessons are a bit more difficult and the consequences are more far-reaching but also where we have unbounded energy and dreams of exciting days ahead.

Baseball - batter up
When learning skills that will enrich them long after adolescent years have passed.

We later arrive at the season of adulthood where we are still challenged with new problems and adventures [I am thinking about adjusting to technology here!].  Disappointments may arise when we are downsized from a long-held job.  Hardships may come when physical disabilities are hampering living life to the fullest.  Tears may fall as the child has to become the parent as dementia takes over the mind of a loved mother or father.

No matter what season of life we are in, God is there with us.  David writes:

“He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever.”

Psalm 21:4

There is the season for work and accumulation of wealth.  But when we think we have arrived, we must take a second look at the situation:

“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'”

Luke 12:19-20

Many are the souls that work hard, care for their family, accumulate goods and money in the bank, without regard to caring for their soul.  It is paramount that we remember this world is not the end … as wonderful as it is, we will all perish and spend eternity somewhere.  Bank accounts won’t matter there – what matters is the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

We use the word “seasons” to talk about various holidays and celebrations.  In the United States, for example, we have the season of Thanksgiving, a day when we recall those first settlers from Europe who endured hardships and forged the basis for our country to grow. We give thanks to God for His providence in preserving and sustaining those early settlers.  Often the meal centers around the Thanksgiving turkey!  (Of course, every day should be a day of thanksgiving, not just one time per year!)

Thanksgiving turkey ready to consume (C)
Mouths are watering, getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast!

On the heals of Thanksgiving we have the season of Christmas, the time we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a time to focus on the advent of our Lord, the ultimate gift of God to us.  The Christmas tree and representations of the nativity scene are found in many homes across the country.

USED Christmas tree and decorations
The decorations are ready, the nativity scene is set — praise the Lord for His Advent!

A sweet description of the season of the blessed life is found in the very first psalm in Scripture.  David, in speaking of the man who walks in the counsel of God, says:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 1:1-3  

God is in all our seasons.  He is the one who gives us life and breath.  He gives us security when we follow Him and walk in His Ways.  This verse does not mean that God promises that we will have material wealth here and now.  This is not the prosperity gospel from the Old Testament. 

Rather, God is speaking of prospering us in spirit, the ultimate evidence of this is the gift of Christ as our atoning sacrifice so that we can approach God in prayer and so that we will be accepted into heaven because we have been adopted by God into the family of the Lord.  Adoption as a child of God is true prosperity and security.

Father, thank You for giving me the security of being a child in Your family.  I love You and praise my Lord and Savior for all that He has done.  Help me to see Your Hand in all the seasons of my life and may I live each day You give to me to the honor and glory of Your name.  I can only do that through the power of Your Son, and my Savior.

 

SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT

It is no secret that I have been doing many more crafty things since retirement than I had time for while working.  I have been enjoying experimenting with canning, sewing, knitting, and yesterday I started crocheting.

My grandmother taught me to crochet while I was in elementary school, but it had long gone from my memory and my hands don’t remember the motions that come automatically when experienced hands pick up the crochet hook. 

After a tutorial on Google, I started work on a baby cap with my crochet hook when my dear husband asked what the difference was between crocheting and knitting. 

Knitting and crocheting

He understood the obvious difference – one uses pointed needles while the other uses  a  single hook.  But otherwise, it seems that they are alike.  They both usually start with a slip knot, then they take some material, likely yarn, and, through a series of knots, they create something to wear, display, etc. 

After this discussion, I continued crocheting and thought about the differences between crocheting and knitting, and that disparity brought to mind the sermon series based on the book of 1 John that is underway at our church.  John was telling his congregation that there were teachers in their midst who perhaps sounded good but were teaching false doctrine. They needed to beware that their own doctrine was not compromised.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1 ESV

In other words, John is warning his readers to be careful.  Something might look and sound like teaching from our God but it might not be so.  Similar but different.

But, John not only warns them, he tells the young Christian body how they can “test the spirits” of those who have been teaching them.  What is the test? 

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

1 John 4:2-3

Only true believers can confess with their mouth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, that He has died, that He arose from the dead, and that He is God incarnate.  God in flesh just as we are, except He is without sin so that He can be the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sin.

Knitting and crocheting are similar but different. 

People who preach anything other than Christ crucified and now alive in the flesh and in Heaven are not preaching the gospel.  They might dress the message up with words that sound good, that is to say, their message may sound similar, but it is not a saving message from the Bible or from the Holy Spirit if it does not focus on the crucified Christ. 

There are many things upon which we can agree to disagree.  Manner of baptism or number of sacraments, for example. But this is not one of them. 

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Paul said the same thing a bit more colorfully:

Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.  I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.”

Galatians 1:8-9 NLT

Similar but different.  Who cares?  We all should care because the difference is whether you will have eternal life in heaven with our Lord and Savior or whether you will have eternal life in hell … one way or another you will be existing eternally. Being with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is far better than the only other alternative.

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice so that we can come to You through Him as our Savior and Lord.  I pray that the words of this missive would encourage the readers to call on the Holy Spirit if they do not already know You, and if they are believers, I pray that they would study only under those who preach and teach the message of Scripture, not of worldly wisdom.