Tuesday, January 21, 2014

God's Anger

Having someone angry at you is not fun.  I admit that my personality type would rather run from conflict, but while anger may fade, the root cause, if not addressed, remains. Recently I came face to face with this ugly monster, and it seems that I was at fault....believe it or not!! Let's face it, no one likes to hear personal criticism, even if it is constructive.  I'd like to say I took it well, but that would be far from the truth.  Later, after praying about the situation, I returned to the person and apologized for my behavior, vowing to try and avoid future conflicts.  In a perfect world, the other party would forgive me and there would never be any more conflict between us.  The operative words here are "perfect world", that's not where we live, yet.

 This same scenario plays out on a daily basis in our relationship with God.  Long ago, when Adam first messed things up for the rest of us, I wonder how different things would be if he had admitted his guilt, took responsibility for it and humbly asked for God's forgiveness. You know God would have forgiven him, and while there might have been some modifications made, the relationship would not have been irrevocably fractured.  Why Adam, why???

I guess the big question remains, is God still angry with us? Both testaments talk about this subject, take for instance Ephesians 2:3. "By our very nature we were subject to God's anger, just like everyone else."  Paul is telling us that before we made amends with God, by accepting his son, we were indeed on the outs, so to speak.  Obviously that is not how God envisions our relationship with him.  He makes it clear what we need to do to heal that rift, and the wise person will take him up on his amazing offer of grace and forgiveness.  For a long time I, myself, ignored his offer, not wanting to face the truth of my sinful nature.  Instead of being angry with me, God persisted in lovingly, but firmly calling me to repentance. Just like my friend or a parent, God's "righteous" anger is based upon our misunderstanding or blatant disobedience of his directives. He has every right to be angry, but like a friend or parent, he never stops loving us, even though we tick him off.

Are you still not sure where you stand with God?  Ask him, search the scriptures, and he will reveal His heart of love and forgiveness. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:31

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Light in the Storm

Living in rural Illinois, for over 40 years, I have experienced all sorts of inclement weather. We seem to get hit with severe heat waves, droughts, floods, ice storms and blizzards. Last Sunday was one of those meteorological events that will make it into the record books.  A major winter storm had been predicted for about a week, and worried residents, like swarms of hungry locusts, hit the grocery stores with full force.  For a while it seemed that we had dodged the bullet since the snow had not started falling on schedule.  With a sigh of relief, thousands of people settled down for the night.  Around 4am snow began falling, and falling and falling!!  It kept coming down, as the winds picked up speed, 40 mph, and the temperatures dropped to -13 degrees.  Our power flickered, sending my husband and me, at the height of the storm, out to the barn for emergency fire wood.  Visibility had been 0 all day, and night fall made the usually short walk, a treacherous trek.  Cutting to the chase, we were fine.  The electricity stayed on, DISH worked, we had plenty of food, and I hate to admit, but it was kind of fun looking out on the wild scene from my safe haven.

At my weekly Bible study group, on the following Saturday, we all shared our personal storm experiences.  While most of us had similar tales to mine, one friend told us this harrowing account. At 11 am on Sunday, when the storm was raging violently, her electricity went off, and stayed off.  Fortunately, they were prepared with a gas-powered generator that allowed them to produce limited electricity.  While the house was cool, they would not succumb to the relentless, icy marauder pounding at the door. As they drew heavy comforters around them, their son called.  His power was out as well, and without a generator, his two small children were at risk.  He wondered if his Dad could make the 1/2 mile trip, with his heavy truck, to pick up the kids.  If you are a parent/grandparent you know what he did.  Bundling up, he reassured his wife that he would be safe, and would return soon. As he headed down the country road, in what he thought was the correct direction, his wife and daughter, watching from the window, saw him turn off course!  Calling his cell phone, they realized he wouldn't answer because he had to keep both hands on the steering wheel.  Within a few more minutes he returned their call. He had been so turned around, in the zero-visibility, that he had driven into a snow-filled ditch.  Only a 1/4 mile from home, he confidently told them that he'd walk and be with them shortly. Once again, keeping vigil at the window, they gasped in horror as he blindly veered off the road, away from home.  Frantic, his wife called and told him that the path he was following was leading him dangerously away from safety.  Even though he was now aware of his dire situation, there were no landmarks or familiar signs to help him find his way, he was hopelessly lost in the violent storm.  Trying not to give in to the panic that was oh so near, my friend dug out a huge lantern that her husband used during deer hunting season.  Oblivious to the elements, she swung the massive beacon praying that its beam would pierce through the darkness and guide him home. Praise God, he did see it, and was soon welcomed inside by his relieved family.  Later, over a cup of coffee, she asked him if he had been afraid, he said, "I couldn't afford to be, but I was on the verge, until I saw the light."

Jesus  informs us that storms will come into our lives, the question is not will we be prepared, but will we be drawn to His light. This man had prepared himself for the blizzard, but it wasn't enough. The fact is, spiritually, we can't make it though the storms prepared with only our human equipment, we'll always wind up in the ditch, or worse.  God's light shines perpetually.We don't notice it on the bright, calm, pleasant days, but when we are on the brink of disaster, when we are absolutely turned in the wrong direction,  it is the only way to find our way home.

Do you find yourself  in a dark place, take heart, look through the swirling winds, look for and follow the only light that will lead you home. "I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark."  John 12:46.    

Friday, January 10, 2014

Reacting to Jesus

I've been snowed in due to a massive blizzard, that ravaged our area of the USA, so it gave me time to remove all remnants of Christmas putting everything away in boxes and tubs. My decor included a plain white nativity set comprised of 3 separate figures; Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, they too are now behind closed doors.  It felt almost sacrilegious to hide them, but isn't that what most of us do with the real Jesus anyway?  It got me thinking about the visit of the Magi; why did they come and how did they react to finding this new King?

 The birth of a Messiah had been foretold by the prophets, and it's interesting to note that at about the same time Jesus was born there was in the world a strange feeling of expectation of the coming of a king. Even Roman historians knew about this, one of whom, Suetonius, wrote, "There had spread over all the Orient an old an established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world."  It is also true that all the ancient world believed in astrology.  The Magi were non-Jewish learned men skilled in philosophy, medicine, and natural sciences.  In addition they were soothsayers, interpreters of dreams, and experts in astrology. The stars usually pursued an unvarying course, so when something like a brilliant star appeared it signaled that God was breaking in to the order to announce something special.  These  wise men knew about the Jewish prophecy of a  Messiah before they left their distant homeland.  When they arrived in Israel it was politically correct to drop by and announce their intentions to the King. Herod made nice to the visitors, but he was insanely suspicious.  He had already murdered his wife, mother-in-law and three sons, and anyone who threatened his position as the royal ruler.  As he sent the Magi on their way, he cheerily told them to return when they found what they were looking for so he too could go and worship him. As soon as they were gone he called together the Chief priest and scribes, experts in scripture and the law.  When he asked him if there was any truth in this tale of a Messiah, they quoted scripture that verified it.  They themselves knew the verses, but didn't believe it themselves. The Magi followed the star and when they found the child, scripture tells us that they fell to their knees and worshiped him.

No sooner was Jesus born than men have divided themselves into groups in regard to how they  react to him.  To this day there are really only three reactions.
1. Hatred and Hostility- The reaction of Herod.  Still there are those would gladly destroy Jesus because they feel he interferes with their lives.
 2. Complete Indifference- the reaction of the chief priests and scribes.  They knew the truth, but were too busy with "religious" business, obligations and discussions, so Jesus was totally disregarded.  Sadly, that too is the modern day reaction of many folks.
3. Adoring Worship- the reaction of the Magi.  When they came face to face with the truth their reaction was to fall at the feet of the King of Kings bringing him the noblest gifts they could bring. Gold for a King, frankincense for a priest and myrrh for one who is to die.

As you store your Christmas ornaments, meditate on which reaction group you would place yourself in.  One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, but until then the decision is ours.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magia from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’b ”
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-12