Saturday, November 29, 2014

Space Only for the Lowly In the Manger

Romanticism is the modern theme of Christmas when the reality was far from it. Jesus was born in squalid and cramped conditions; his ultra young parents (by today’s standards) were about as vulnerable as you could find; their company were animals and shepherds (who were lowly in that society); they had no protection from death had the birth gone wrong.
But, of course, God orchestrated these tough circumstances. He appeared as the Incarnation, Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us.”
The Lord chose Jesus to be born not in lavishness, but in lowliness. Just as Jesus could have lay claim to being the Saviour of the World in his fullest glory, that wasn’t the Father’s plan. Jesus would die a nothing. He took no entitlement, and, just as much, he took no right for being God for granted.
He reversed the order of self-justice, from that of fighting for one’s rights to the surrendering of same, for others’ blessing. Jesus exemplified the nature of shepherds (John 10:1-21).
The Caring Nature of Shepherds
Here are two key reversals: 1) the shepherds (society’s lowly) were ordained a divine role in the Nativity story – the first evangelists (Luke 2:8-20); and, 2) the elevated in society were clueless, as was the case with King Herod. From Jesus’ time, the shepherd rose to prominence, but only for what they did, which highlighted the type of people they were. They would risk their lives for their sheep. They devoted their lives to the care of their sheep. Who better to entrust the message of God with than shepherds.
The humble are exalted. The exalted are humbled.
The shepherds were fitting visitors to the manger; they insisted not in glory for themselves and came to serve God’s interest and knew they were blessed.
Our Opportunity As Shepherds – Today
Every believer in Christ is a shepherd, as every believer has an anointing to build others up. If we are interested enough to serve God’s interest, the Lord will give us those in manger situations to serve – angels who are vulnerable and clothed in rags.
Ours is the opportunity of hospitality – not simply to invite them home, but to invite them into our hearts.
This is a simpler mandate than we could conjure ourselves. Seeking the vulnerable in our own backyards, we do little things (the littler the better), but we do them with habitual consistency.
We identify our sinner’s pride and we pour contempt on it – we, ourselves, are nobodies if we identify with Jesus. As the shepherds were nobodies, and served God’s interest, and as Jesus was born and died a nobody, we too are to become circumstantial nobodies – though we are royalty in God’s eyes.
We retrace our bigotry and rescind it. We stare our fears in the eye. We overcome the pernicious propensity to reject people with our eyes, ears, and tongue.
We begin to see our rejections as our rejecting Jesus! We shudder and so we should. And then we turn about face and repent by bringing the rejected into the lap of our arms.
Only the lowly can serve. The lowly God will save and use for his glory. The lowly will serve the lowly. Will you be lowly?
What is life and our living reason?
What is love in this Christmas season?
Jesus born that day in the Manger,
Jesus, today, loves the stranger.
As was that day way back when,
Jesus, today, welcomes all women and men,
Not just the ones who look all good,
But especially the ones we all should.
Jesus’ challenge is to love those low,
To love them truly with dignity to bestow.
People everywhere need this Christmas love,
People everywhere need God above.
Our opportunity is to give a hand,
To love like Jesus and make a stand,
Let’s reach out and touch all who are rejected,
With this love only Jesus has effected.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Confidence Producing Contentedness and Courage

When all the froth and bubble is sipped away from beverage that is one life, the key and vibrant truth most pertinent to the living of life is God, present and with us, everywhere, every time, in every situation. We can, therefore, be content. We are to be content. This is the meaning implicit and explicit in Hebrews 13:5-6, with the Greek words (the original language the New Testament was written in) above and the New Living Translation below. I will explain why I’ve added the Greek later:
(Greek) Ἀφιλάργυρος ὁ τρόπος, ἀρκούμενοι τοῖς παροῦσιν.
(NLT) Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.
αὐτὸς γὰρ εἴρηκεν·
For God has said,
οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ οὐδʼ οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω,
“I will never, not in any way, fail you.
I will never, not in any way, abandon you.”
ὥστε θαρροῦντας ἡμᾶς λέγειν·
So we can say with confidence,
κύριος ἐμοὶ βοηθός,
“The Lord is my helper,
[καὶ] οὐ φοβηθήσομαι,
so I will have no fear.
τί ποιήσει μοι ἄνθρωπος;
What can any human being do to me?”
When we consider the power money has over many of us we know it takes our attention and devotion away from the things of God. But money is merely one salient symbol of idolatry – anything that takes us away from the purposes and plans of God is not only bad, but a waste of our time.
The Lord’s Unfailing Presence
The main focus of this article is the line οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ οὐδʼ οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω. Each οὐ in Greek means “not” and each μή means “definitely not”; add to this the οὐδʼ which also means “no” or “not”. There are five negations in this one verse, and two of them are strong, emphatic negations.
What this means is that the Lord will never, ever fail us, no, not ever in any way; the Lord will never, ever forsake us, no, not ever in any way.
For the very reason that God is with us, everywhere we go, at all times, and will never ever fail us or forsake us in any way, no, not ever, we ought to be unfailingly content.
Nothing can keep us from God and nothing and nobody can dissuade us from the blessing God has ordained for us. But we must agree that our Lord has our best in mind, always; that God alone is faithful.
All this generates an irrepressible “confidence” in us; a boldness that is not built in pride, but in the righteousness of God.
Take heart; take comfort; God is present everywhere. He who seeks you always will never, not ever, fail you, nor will he ever forsake you, no, not ever.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Hands, Feet, Ears, and Eyes of Love

When all is said and done we either love by our thoughts and actions or we miss the mark, because apathy has a million excuses. Every excuse has its roots in cowardice. But every act of love is full of faith and lacks no courage.
So what do the hands, the feet, the ears, and the eyes of love look like? Here are some samples of a life lived for love:
Notice the little things,
Then encourage those who do them.
Notice the insignificant things,
That are never more significant.
Notice things people don’t do,
Get in there and do what’s so simple.
Bless people in such little ways,
Ways in which you can’t get credit.
Disguise the good things your left hand does,
So your right hand is none the wiser.
Make a difference by making nothing of it,
And then distract everyone by encouraging someone.
Make more of your own sin,
Because God regards it primary.
Enjoy the simple pleasure that does no harm,
Because such a pleasure is true unadulterated joy.
Be all you can, but don’t worry if you can’t,
Life isn’t the competition we think it is.
Please the right people, but most important, please God,
Because your death could take you in five minutes time.
Have not one enemy in the whole world,
So far as it depends on you.
Become something you haven’t been for someone,
Others’ needs are often opportunities to do new things.
Don’t worry about losses when others gain,
For their gain will never be lost on them.
It’s easy to bury the resentment in a solution of honey,
So all that bitterness can be neutralised in something sweet.
Frame language positively wherever you can,
You don’t know what the rest of the world is dealing with.
Learn to listen and God will expand your world,
Others’ needs take precedence when we need ours less.
Play the games of life, but only if nobody else will get hurt,
Remember that love has no excuses; love is responsibility.
The hands, the feet, the ears, and the eyes of love are committed to action, because, with a heart to love we must act. Love is so full of integrity it must do what must be done.
Hold out your love with your hands.
Walk every step of faith in love.
Listen to the flow of life and in that way love.
Observe the loving things done and replicate it.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.