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Archive for December, 2015

manger

This is my body, given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me. 

Mary lived it before Jesus said it.  Both every true martyr and every good mother who have ever lived have embraced it.  It is the purpose of the church and, in this particular kind of giving, the glory of God is displayed to the whole world.

I am not talking about taking communion, although the same things could be said of it.  I am talking about the physical realities of Christ’s Passover statement and command to follow.

Christmas is physical.  Whether it is bags and boxes or babies and choir blouses, everything we do around Christmas requires, at very least, an acknowledgement of the physical.  Many would remind us that if we allow the physical things of Christmas to overshadow the spiritual, we miss it altogether.  While that may be true enough, as the blessed mother of a brand new baby this Christmas season, I believe that it can go both ways.  That is to say so, too, if we miss the physical realities of Christmas and discount their importance, we may just miss the spiritual truths behind them as well.

Let me explain.

What I mean to say is that, with a newborn, I understand in vivid detail this Christmas season some of the same physical realities Mary was feeling when Jesus was born.  From the discomfort long before and the pain days after, I am called to give as she gave.  I am reminded in living color, day and night, of the frustration of a newborn nursing child and the overwhelming demands determined by her needs.  Mary lived out a very physical picture of what it means, not only to receive, but to give a gift like no other.  In agreeing with God about his plan for her and obeying, Mary gave life to the Son of God through the giving of her own body.  Albeit unwillingly in many cases, every mother since Eve has done as much.

When Jesus spoke of giving his body, he was referring to his death on the cross.  That’s Easter,  I know.  How does Christmas fit?  Well.  Thirty-three years before he gave his body in death, Jesus gave his body in life.  Coming down from heaven, his very presentation is the gift we celebrate every Christmas.  This, the gift of all gifts.

While I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to die for Christ, or, for others as he did, I do know something of what it means to live for him.  It, too, is a giving of our bodies.  Whether we are called to martyrdom or motherhood; ministry or mechanics; Macy’s or the city mission, our call is the same.  It is the giving of our bodies for the glory of God.

…and giving our bodies to glorify God in life may just prove more difficult and demanding than to give them in death.

Christ’s body lives on here on earth today.  The church is his physical presence – his body – on earth until he returns.  So, next time you go to take communion and you hear Jesus whisper, “This is my body, given for you,” remember him.  Remember his death, but do also remember his life.  Remember how he came.  Remember Mary.  Remember your mother.  Remember your mission.  Remember that you are his body and your purpose is to be altogether spent giving yourself away for the good of others – just as he was.  In these living sacrifices, we honor and remember him.

How ironic.  Turns out Christmas really is about spending after all. Spend yourself on others like Jesus; like Mary; like martyrs; like mamas.  When you sing your spiritual songs and light your spiritual candles, don’t miss the physical.  Your presence in the practical, the painful, the presents, the parties, and even the picture perfect provisions all have their place if they are done purposefully.  Do all of this in remembrance of Him.

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god's will

Moving into Exodus chapter 7, God retells his plan once again to Moses.  This is the third time God reiterates for a hesitant human like us.  What grace Our Father has for our immature rebellion, fear, and faithlessness at his commands!

Moses’ objections to obey God’s directives finally cease.  He stops contending with God and begins contending with Pharaoh.  I suppose that is the way it generally works for God’s people.  We cannot fight a good fight against this world when we are busy fighting against personal obedience to God’s clear Word.

God reminds Moses that Pharaoh will not listen despite all the signs and miracles he is about to perform.  Then he says something that I find quite curious.  God says, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5)

God causes the ungodly to know he is Lord by “great acts of judgement.” (Exodus 7:4)  Conversely, he causes his people to know he is Lord by great acts of gracious, merciful deliverance.  In his wrath and his mercy – both solely dependent upon his own sovereign choice – God is glorified.

As the story goes, Moses and Aaron obey, Pharaoh asks for a sign, and their staff becomes a serpent.  The sign is quickly dismissed as the Egyptian magicians are able to do the same.  Still, Aaron’s staff swallows up the others.  While that proof of authority should have been enough, instead Pharaoh’s hard heart deemed it enough reason to disbelieve.  Matthew Henry says, “…the very appearance of an opposition to truth, and the least head made against it, serve those for a justification of their infidelity who are prejudiced against the light and love of it.”

I guess the most obvious question here is, “Why would God allow and enable the false magicians to imitate the true sign so similarly?”  Apparently, it serves as part of his sovereign will to harden the hearts of some and deliver the hearts of others.  Again I defer to Henry’s words:  “God suffers the lying spirit to do strange things, that the faith of some may be tried and manifested, that the infidelity of others may be confirmed, and that he who is filthy may be filthy still.”

The bottom line in this strange interaction between a sovereign God who sent a humble man to speak to a proud man on his behalf only to exalt the one and bring down the other, is to prove his authority and prerogative to do just that.  And why would an all-powerful God have need to do anything like that?  He doesn’t need help, approval, or acceptance from mere men.  Therefore, the reason he does so is solely for their sake; for our sake – that we might know who he is and what he does; that we might know his grace and mercy; his greatness and his wrath.  God gives us the whole of the Biblical text that we might know just what kind of God he is.

And what kind of God is that?

He is a God who humbles men and hardens men.  He exalts men and delivers men.  He chooses whom he will for whatsoever he pleases.  This is a God who made men for his own purposes, and for his own purposes alone men live and breathe.  This is a God of greatest power, authority, knowledge, and wisdom over all things, all nations, and all people everywhere.

Such may seem a great mystery.  So be it.  It is a mystery woven throughout all of scripture for us to investigate and inquire of him about -and that is what he wants from us.  We serve a God that is altogether sovereign.

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