The Switched Nativity

Jesus in the center.

Nativity pic 02I was carefully setting up this year’s Nativity display on the wooden shelf by the fireplace.   I meticulously turned individual pieces in incremental degrees until each one faced Baby Jesus in a stance that reflected wonder and adoration.

With a sense of satisfaction, I stepped back to view the final arrangement.

I sort of chuckled at myself, knowing full well that Biblical timelines do not place Jesus’ birth, first shepherds, and traveling kings all arriving in Bethlehem at the same time.  Still, I love creating a niche every year that displays that time-condensed version of the events as described.

Unexpectedly, I felt like the Spirit whispered, That’s not what it looks like today.  After that statement, a clear image flashed into my mind.  In that image, each of my Nativity pieces had been switched around and now stood in a completely different configuration.

Nativity SwitchedInstead of all attention focused towards Jesus, I saw Joseph, Mary, all three kings and even the shepherd, all facing one another in a circle of earnest conversation.   Their circle was closed and turned away from the Messiah.  He and the manger had been positioned at the opposite end of the shelf…alone, except for the company of a glass donkey and lamb.

The redesigned arrangement was thought-provoking.

I mused regarding the role each character might represent in today’s world:  the three kings would still represent leaders of nations, countries, and their respective political systems.   Joseph – perhaps a representation of men stepping forward to mentor, to “father” others, to model godly masculinity and leadership to the next generation; Mary — carrying the concerns, responsibilities and unique callings of women?  And the shepherd – would he represent a segment of the less fortunate in this world, or those who dedicate themselves to finding and winning lost hearts back to God?

In this Nativity’s switched layout, the people and those they stood for were not seeking wisdom or guidance from the Miracle Worker, the King of Kings who has government “rest on His shoulders,” the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6) though He was very near to all of them.

Instead, they talk-talk-talked only amongst themselves, solidifying their own worldview in which each was a captive, both a victim and perpetrator of the worldly system’s injustices.

light shaft in clouds, ver, origBut God is never static and never distant.  “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”  (I John 3:8)  One of my favorite Old Testament verses is Habakkuk 1:5 – “Look among the nations!  Observe!  Be astonished!  Wonder!  For I am doing something in your days – you would not believe it even if you were told!”

God is always “doing something” in whatever days we find ourselves. 

Good days.  Bad days.  Days we anticipate with joy and even those days we face with dread and prayer.  A “perfect Nativity” in this life has yet to be fully implemented or fully manifested in any area of our earthly walk, our sojourner’s path through both the marvelous and the horrific.

“The reason the Son of God was revealed was to undo and destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8, The Passion Translation)

God is never without purpose.

IMG_1679The essence of “The Christmas Story” is not diminished even towards those nations whose cultures and calendars forbid its acknowledgement or celebration.  God is always seeking His lost sheep, His captured children held deep inside satanic fortresses.  As the grace of the Holy Spirit is poured out on those who seek it, so it is also poured out on those who are standing with their backs turned away from Him.

There is a resounding “Glory to God in the highest” that is constantly shed abroad, a sharing to step into the announcement “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”

We are the Elect in God’s Elect-ion

November 6:  Election Day.

I have linked to a really interesting article I chanced upon while researching Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote that the government created for America was “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it.”  The article was written in 2010 so the 2008 survey it quotes is a little dated – but from listening to the current political discourse among various groups of people over the last year, I would guess the statistics that indicate “what people don’t know” have expanded since 2008, not decreased.

As the article highlights, a majority of people no longer can define the differences between a Republic and a democracy.  I would say I’m surprised…but the truth is, I’m not.  I am finding that many of our future government leaders (aka, today’s young people) are even hard-pressed to explain the differences between democracy and socialism.  Let alone the points of difference between socialism and communism, nor why any one of them is preferable to governance than any other.  My opinion:  this is a truly dismal situation that needs desperately to be corrected.

However, this is not a political blog, so let me move on to my “spiritual” point:  the clear parallel I see between great masses of self-governing people not understanding the difference between republicanism and socialism, and great masses of people created in the image of God having no understanding of Who God is, any of His attributes/characteristics, nor the difference between the ways of this world and the ways of His Kingdom.

And that’s a problem.  No good will come to either group of people found to be in such a state.  It is a problem in both national self-governance just as it is a problem in representing the body of Christ in a local fellowship.

One of Thomas Jefferson’s well-documented quotes states, “God…has formed us moral agents…that we may promote the happiness of those with whom He has placed us in society, by acting honestly towards all, benevolently to those who fall within our way, respecting sacredly their rights, bodily and mental, and cherishing especially their freedom of conscience, as we value our own.” (1814)*

When I ponder this quote from one of our Founding Fathers, it brings me a new dimension in appreciating Paul’s teaching in I Timothy 2:1-2:  “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (NASB)

Too often, I believe this is a prayer spoken with fear, as if taking a preventative medicine.  We do not want to find ourselves in a perpetual whirlwind of tumult, not tranquility; of traumatic events rather than quietness; and with nonstop assaults on both the concept and embodiment of godliness and dignity.

Though Jefferson wrote these thoughts in a letter to a friend, I find it powerful and thought-provoking to present it as a prayer:  Lord, increase our influence for good as we stand as Your moral agents, promoting honesty, benevolence, and freedom of conscience among those who view life differently than we; Give us wisdom and insight to vote in, and support, those leaders throughout our country who use their morality to cherish individual rights, promote harmony and well-bring, walk in integrity and honesty, protect and defend our personal ideals and dignity, and honor You as sovereign God; for these things we give You thanks and offer You our country, to guide and protect, and through which You pour out your blessing of wisdom and uprightness to all nations, cultures, ethnicity, and peoples.

Six times in the New Testament (NASB translation), we who have come to known Jesus are referred to as “the elect.”  On Elect-ion Day, I find it both tremendously uplifting and humbling to remember that before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son and Spirit elected to create a family for fellowship, indwelling, and impact on the world.  He – all Three! – elected to adopt us.

I Peter 2:9:  “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous Light.”  (NASB)

Selah.  We have a great calling and there are masses of people who need to hear that  message.

* https://famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff0200.htm

What Would People Hear From the Song of Your Life?

IMG_5580

I was listening to a song by the group Big Daddy Weave and heard a stanza that captured my heart:  “If I told you my story, you would hear victory.  If I told you my story, you would hear Life.  Ohh-ohh, to tell you my story is to tell of Him.”

My inner response was — wow!  Those 31 words summarize pages and pages of interactive conversation and testimony between the “I” of his verse and Papa God.  As I pondered the lyricist’s verse, the natural question arose:  what would people hear from the song of my life?  Or from yours?  A funeral dirge?  A nursery rhyme of phrases that make no sense except in their own context?  A country-style lament regarding being “done wrong” and seeing no justice in the world?

Or would they be able to hear Jesus say “Take courage; I have overcome the world”? (John 16:33)

MIXED MELODY OF MESSAGES

I would like to be able to say that the latter is always true in my life.  Unfortunately, Peter and I have much in common and that is not the case. Depending on which verse of life people had tuned in to, I have no doubt that my “song” would have sent a mixed melody of messages that displayed confusion, misunderstanding, doubt or unbelief.  As many different circumstances are thrown before us, I think that we, like Elijah, need to turn our eyes towards seeing the smallest cloud that will lead to that future rain of divine promise or destiny, manifest.

And while we wrestle with that, the song of our lives is always being sung  — through hours and days and weeks of time. Continue reading “What Would People Hear From the Song of Your Life?”

What Mary Knew And We Often Forget

baby feetThere are three passages in Luke 1 that are well-read and often shared. The first is Luke 1:38, in which Mary responds to Gabriel’s announcement that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and she, a virgin, would conceive a child. Her response is, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38, NASB)

I prefer The Message translation of Mary’s answer: “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1:38)

Part of the reason I prefer The Message translation of this brief statement is the different perspective that is expressed: In the New American Standard translation (and many others), what comes across most clearly is that something is being “done” to Mary. In The Message, her willingness to serve is revealed more clearly, even dramatically. In The Message translation, you can almost hear an audible, “Ah-Ha!” as Mary receives a flash of divine revelation regarding the moment and time in history she is about to enter….Yes, I see it all now.

I find that…well…profound. And maybe even provocative. Encouraging. If God can reveal so amazing and outrageous a plan, this fulfillment of prophecy, in a brief second of time while Mary is in the midst of her mundane, daily activities…there is certainly hope and encouragement for us, Continue reading “What Mary Knew And We Often Forget”

Reflections: Dancing In The Rain

dancing in the rain01As I scrolled down the Twitter posts, a colorful-but-familiar poster caught my eye: “Don’t wait for the storm to pass – learn to dance in the rain.”

I have previously read and seen this quote many times, presented on many different backgrounds. But on this particular occasion, I re-read it several times because the Lord began to unwrap different depths of impact to the words; He was opening my eyes to a deeper level of significance than I had previously noticed.

Several scriptures came to my mind: “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45); “Let them praise His name with dancing” (Psa 149:3); “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world;” (John 16:33) “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you”; (John 14:20) “I am with you always…” (Matt. 28:20)

Learn to dance in the rain.

The more I pondered the full thirteen words, the more broad-reaching they became. I could see them as stones dropping into a pond on unruffled surface water, sending ripples out to the very perimeter.

The equivalent of ripples through our souls, perhaps. Continue reading “Reflections: Dancing In The Rain”