Monday, December 23, 2013

The Savior's Birth

Here we are at the time of year when the birth of Jesus Christ is commonly celebrated.  One of the most pertinent scriptures regarding that event is found is Matthew 1:21:

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Amid all the hoopla and misdirected celebration, don't forget that the mere fact of his birth (miraculous as it was) did not accomplish that saving.  A better place to contemplate that aspect is found in the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.  As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:  So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?  For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.  And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.  

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.   He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.   Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Now, if you just skipped over the scripture above, which is increasingly likely in this age when it seems that people are fleeing the oppressively long Blog in favor of the quicker (and necessarily  shallower) Twitter, then I urge you to reconsider.  Take a few minutes to read and contemplate what Christ endured as the sacrifice for sins.  If you can't take the time, I understand ...just pray that the one who poured out his soul unto death will understand why a little last minute shopping was more important.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kaya on Job

Recently my granddaughter Kaya was presented with the task of completing a written essay test for her freshman Theology class at Southwest Christian High School.  The following is what she wrote.  Keep in mind that this was a classroom test, not a homework assignment.  I am very proud of her!

A little over four years ago I published the first  ever "guest post" on my blog.  It was a short piece by one of my daughters called "Our Medicated Society".  As it happens, this "second ever" guest post was written by her daughter.  It would appear that she is following in her mother's footsteps in writing prowess.

Job is a book of The Bible about a man who is righteous in the eyes of God. God wants to prove Job's faith to Satan, so He allows Satan to test Job. Job loses everything he has and all of his children die. His first instinct is to praise God. It takes great faith to be able to worship right after something terrible happens to you, but that's the kind faith Job had. We should have this kind of faith too. We need to be able to stand firm in our faith when everyone and everything is going wrong around us, and that is the theme of my essay.

Standing firm in our faith is one of the most important things about our lives as Christians. If someone around us is doing something wrong we need to be able to hold ourselves accountable, and not fall into the sin ourselves. Satan will try to tempt us, and he knows exactly how to get every one of us to sin. He knows what our weaknesses are. But the difference between God testing Job, or us, and Satan tempting us is that God longs for us to pass His test. Satan desires for us to fail. Standing firm in your faith in every situation means that you don't let Satan tempt you enough that you fall. You don't give in to the sin. The definition of 'standing firm' according to is, "1. stand up or offer resistance to somebody or something, 2. refuse to abandon one's opinion or belief." This is what we need to do. We need to resist Satan and the human urge to sin, and we must refuse to abandon our beliefs no matter who is trying to get us to give up on them.

For Job, his friends and his wife all urged him to give up on God. Job 2:9 says, "9 Then his wife said, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." Job's wife was the first one who tried to get him to abandon his beliefs in God. For us it may not be a wife, since we aren't married yet, but it could be a best friend, a boyfriend, or maybe even another family member. These are some of the people that have the most influence on us, and they are the ones who may cause us to stumble in our hope of 'standing firm'. When it's someone we are close with who is tempting us, it's a lot harder to say no to them. But Job did, and I think this was a moment when his faith really shone through him. He tells his wife that what she said was not okay and she should be ashamed because of how foolish it was. Where this response is found is in Job 2:10. It says,"10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips." Job said these things because he was NOT going to falter in his faith, not even because that's what his wife wanted. By telling her that, and saying those things, he didn't stumble at all. He stood firm, didn't give in, and did not sin.

This theme reveals much about God's character, His eternal sovereignty, and human suffering. What it shows about God's character is that, he will test us, but since he wants us to pass the test he won't push us past what we can handle. He knows what we can handle because he is omniscient. He knows all. He knows exactly what would cause us to sin, and what our limits are, and he would never cause us to fall into sin because he loves us way too much to see us fall. What it shows of His eternal sovereignty is that, He is bigger than everything Job went through, and he ultimately has the say in what goes and what doesn't. Satan couldn't have done all this to Job without God's permission. What it shows about human suffering is that above it all, God has full control over the situation. If you stay faithful and 'stand firm' throughout the suffering He WILL reward you greatly. Job didn't ever sin by cursing God, he didn't waver in faith when his wife wanted him to or when he was with his friends. He stayed true to who he was in The Lord, and he was rewarded in the end. God restored him and rewarded him with twice as much riches, animals, and wealth as he had had before. He and his wife bore the same amount of children as they had had before. Job was fully renewed. All thanks to God's love, power, and grace in suffering.

In closing, I just want to remind everyone that this is how we should react during time of great need or suffering. We need to stand firm in our faith like Job did, no matter what is going on around us, and no matter who we are with at the moment. If we can't stay strong and true to our faith when we're with a certain friend or we're going through a tough time or situation, then our faith simply is not strong enough. We need it to be as strong as possible because we will be tempted and tested at some point if we haven't been already. God needs to be our strong foundation which will make our faith so much stronger. If you don't have a strong enough foundation on God you need to get to know Him, because standing firm and not giving in for God's glory is even greater than you can imagine.