Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Duh Moment

I had a duh moment last Wednesday evening as I was leading the singing for a group of residents at a local assisted living facility. For those unfamiliar - or too old - a duh moment is that instant when something that should have been all too obvious suddenly becomes plain.

Here's an example of a duh moment. Back in the 70's (1970's) there was a television program called Hawaii Five-O about Hawaii's state police. We watched partly because we had just returned from two years in Hawaii and it was a connection to the places we had seen. I remember thinking at the time that Hawaii Five-O was a strange name. It wasn't until years later that it suddenly dawned on me - 5 O ... 50 ... Hawaii was the 50th state to join the union! We all have these embarassing duh moments ... right?

Anyway, back to my most recent. We were singing Silent Night and were on the third verse. How many times have we all sung " ... Son of God .. loves pure light ..."? It's really amazing how our minds work: I'm singing the song and happen to be reading the words when, all of a sudden, I see the words as if for the first time.

Duh!

It's not " ... Son of God .. loves pure light ..." but " ... Son of God .. love's pure light ...". It's not that Jesus loves pure light, but that Jesus is love's pure light! He is the pure light and radiance of God's Love to us.

"For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

"There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." John 1:9 (NASB)

"Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world ...'" John 8:12 (NASB)

That's what the author of the song, Joseph Mohr, meant. It's not that Jesus as love's pure light is a new theological discovery to me, but, that now, whenever I sing this wonderful Christmas hymn, I am singing it with the fuller meaning and understanding that the author intended.

What is also interesting is that all this time while singing and not fully understanding the intent, others could have been hearing with the right understanding. How easy it is to see and not see, to hear and not hear -- until it has been revealed. And how glorious that revelation!

I shared my duh moment with those at the assisted living facility that evening. The next time Silent Night is sung, maybe some will have a renewed joy in proclaiming and hearing the timeless truth of "Son of God, love's pure light."

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Christmas Gifts - Part 2

(Part 1 is here)

Besides hearing the song, A Shepherd's Prayer, on the radio each year, God's other Christmas gift to me is a new perspective on the Christmas story. About six weeks ago, God grabbed me with this year's insight as I was reading my Bible. Have you ever noticed how many times "Fear not!" appears in the Christmas story - it jumped off the page at me.

Over the last six week period, I have probably done devotionals on "Fear not!" four or five times to different groups, but the longer I think on it, the deeper it gets.

There are three words/phrases that frame this - fear not, truth, and great joy.

As he was ministering in the Holy of Holies for the annual sacrifice, Zacharias was visited by an angel. I'm sure his first thought at the angel's appearance was, "Uh, oh! I'm dead! I've done something wrong." The angel's greeting, "Fear not!" addressed his immediate fear, but the angel's promise that Zacharias' barren wife Elizabeth would bear him a son seemed too unbelievable to be true. This was not possible in Zacharias' mind. The angel said this son would be the Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah. This was too much for poor Zacharias, and, for his unbelief, the angel left him speechless until his son's birth.

I think Zacharias' unbelief was a problem of failing to see God's promise as Truth. Already distracted with the deep disappointment of childlessness, he chose his own understanding over the supernatural promise of God when, with an angel standing before him, the most believable and reasonable thing was to believe the angel. The question is, "What is true?" or, really, "WHO is truth?"

Here, Isaiah 8 12b-14a, comes to the fore: "And you will not fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary." (NASB)

Today's science says "No" to the supernatural. God says, "I AM." Who is telling the truth? Whom do you trust?

Gabriel appeared to Mary. "Fear not!" Mary believed the angel's words though she did not fully understand. When there was a very real truth growing inside her, she trusted through the whispers and rumors.

As Joseph pondered the unbelievable story of his pregnant betrothed, Mary, an angel appeared with, "Fear not!" Joseph chose to trust the truth of the angel's message in spite of the scornful eyes and wagging tongues of the neighbors.

The angel hosts suddenly appeared in the sky to some shepherds in their Bethlehem fields. The former quiet and silent night became anything but for them. "Fear not! Great news! A Savior is born! Go see! Go tell!" And the angel hosts sang, "Glory to God in the highest!"

The shepherds believed the angel's story. They went to town and found the baby just as the angels had told them. They told everyone the truth of the great glad tidings. "And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them."  Luke 2:20 (NASB)

Fear the God who can; fear not the world that cannot.

That's the Truth!

Glory to God!

Joy to the World!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Created Perfect for His Purposes

At the conclusion of the sixth day of creation, God looked at everything He had made and pronounced it was "very good." Genesis 1:31.

This is intended as a brief thought on the issue of sin in God's creation. I'm not sure how firmly I will stand on all the following, but this is where I currently am in trying to pull together scripture and what I have heard and read recently from people like Greg Koukl, STR, and John Piper, Desiring God.

It seems most people have a very difficult time reconciling a loving and all-powerful God with sin. In fact, atheists throw it back at us all the time as a disproof of God -- which is no disproof at all but, rather, a very strong case for God's existence.

I know, I said brief, right?

OK. Here's the big thought: God created a perfect world - one perfect for His purpose. And His purpose is to manifest His Glory to the utmost. Creation is not for my comfort; it is for God's Glory! God is the point and period of creation.

You can waffle around all you want as to whether God created sin/evil, but you have to allow at the very least that God allowed it in His creation.

God is in control. "And we know God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose ..." Romans 8:28

We are created moral beings - we make choices between good/evil. It is in the struggle of good/evil and the overcoming of evil that God's Glory is manifested in us.

Evil/sin plays a role in God's plan. It hurts, and it destroys -- but it cannot destroy those whose faith is in God - those whom He has called to be conformed to the image of His son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Where sin abounds, there God's Grace (and His Glory - our right response to His Grace) even more abounds (Romans 5:20).

Yes, even sin plays a part in God's perfect creation.

We, the natural man, seek after emotionally satisfying answers. I think the emotionally satisfying answer is there but it is very hard to come to a point of comfort with. In fact, it takes a lot of faith and a willingness to rest our emotional satisfaction in God's sovereignty.