Archive for December, 2015|Monthly archive page

Child of the king

God is my king and I am his child.

Like any prince, I have great privileges.  But I also have great responsibilities.

I am gradually learning what this means.

More than 55 years ago, I became part of God’s family, accepting the gift of everlasting life from Jesus.

The apostle John, a close friend and follower of Jesus, put it this way in John 1:12:

“Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Christ’s death on the cross and triumphant resurrection from the dead was an enormous gift to me and to all believers.

But many Christians stop right there.  They have received a ticket to heaven – a new birth – and they see no reason to grow.

Many others feel a nagging guilt that they should live out their faith.   But, they act as if they are unsure the gift they have received is really good news.

Alec Rowlands, author of The Presence: Experiencing More of God, thinks the problem is that many Christians have an intellectual knowledge of God but not an intimate relationship.  They lack the close and loving relationship that a child has with his father.

I agree with Rowlands.  Through much of my life, I have failed to understand how much God loves me and how much he loves to give me good things (James 1:17).

In recent years, I have begun to see God better.  He is teaching me how privileged I am as a child of the king.

But, just as princes have great responsibilities, so I have responsibilities as a child of God.

Just before ascending to heaven, Jesus told his followers that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”.  He then commissioned them to “make disciples of all nations”.

Clearly, Jesus wanted his disciples to actively live out their faith.  He didn’t want them to vegetate.

To live out my faith effectively, I must have a close relationship with my Father, the king.

He is the one sending me.  I need to follow his directions.

Advertisements

Is God good?

God is good.  Right?

Most Christians would automatically say: “Yes, God is good.”

Yet, how many of us have questioned God because of some tragedy or disappointment in life?

If you were present at Jesus’ birth, you would likely have rejoiced with his parents.  But, what would you have thought as you stood with his mother Mary at the foot of the cross?

My desire is for my every prayer to be answered with a resounding: “Yes!” I want nothing but over-the-top happiness every second of every day.

But Jesus said in John 16: “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

But, what’s good about trouble?  Why can’t God just give us a great time all the time?

Maybe it’s because we don’t understand what God is doing in our lives.

Take the story of Jesus.

Everyone loves the story of the birth of Jesus.  We smile as we watch our children play the roles in Christmas plays of Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds and the baby Jesus.

Yet, at Christmas time, we don’t dwell on the fact that Jesus lived a hard life and died a terrible death.

His life was a disaster if you look at it from a human standpoint.

Yet God had a plan – a plan for our good.  His followers did not understand what it was until Jesus miraculously rose from the dead.

Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, everyone on earth has the opportunity to embrace in faith what Jesus did and become a privileged child of God.

As Jesus said: “Take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

God is preparing us on earth for everlasting joy – joy that increases forever.

As we struggle with our troubles – big and small – let us cling to this truth.

God is good.

Grateful

Many years ago, two colleagues of mine were walking to work and one of them said: “What a beautiful day this is!”

The other said: “Yeah, but the clouds are coming in.”

I still chuckle over that.  But I ask myself: Am I the kind of person that sees the sunshine or the clouds?

I have to admit that I see a lot of clouds.  And my natural tendency is to look for clouds and to dwell on them.

Hannah Whitall Smith deals with this issue in her marvellous book The God of All Comfort.

Smith, writing about 150 years ago, tells of a woman who received a missionary box which asked her to drop a penny in for all the benefits she received from God. The woman was a chronic complainer but her niece urged her to drop in a penny for every benefit she could find in her life.

The woman was very skeptical.  But when her niece talked with her about poor people in India, she said she was glad she could work and support herself.  Her niece laughed and said that was a benefit and suggested she drop a penny into the missionary box.

This went on for some time as she realized other benefits that God had provided her, including everyday things such as selling eggs.  And more and more pennies dropped into the missionary box.

The point Smith was making is that God is showering us with gifts in our seemingly ordinary, humdrum lives.

Being grateful for everything God gives us – even if it is just being alive today – does change us.  When I praise and thank God, my mood and outlook on life turns from gloom to hope.

I know that from experience.  The question is: Will I make it a habit?

In Psalm 103, David says: “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”

May the Lord open my eyes and heart to the daily gifts he gives me.  And may I continually give thanks for them.

From the depths to the heights

I have been inspired by stories of people who have fought through pain to praise and honour God.

I fully understand those who are angry with God when there seems no way out of their suffering. Why does God wait? Why doesn’t he rescue his children when they are staggering under financial, physical or emotional burdens?

I doubt I would manage such suffering well. I sympathize with Job who complained to God for what clearly seemed to be unjust affliction to him and his family.

But some people manage to trust God and even praise him in the midst of their troubles.

A good example is the apostle Paul.

Paul was stoned by a mob and left for dead. He was whipped to the maximum. He was jailed several times. He nearly drowned. He was bitten by a poisonous snake.

Yet he could write these great words in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Paul even goes further in Ephesians 5:20: “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Being thankful for everything seems to suggest we should be thankful even for the bad things that happen to us.

Even if we can’t go that far, we can praise God for who he is and what he has given us – particularly the gift of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us and the new life he has given us who believe.

As several writers have said, praising God opens us to the presence of God and that can change our hearts and even bring healing.

This calls for a big change in me.  It means I must trust God that he is really working things out for my good – no matter what my circumstances.  I must trust him even when things look bad.

I need to look on dark times the way the prophet Habakkuk did in Habakkuk 3:17-19:

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,  yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength!”

That’s it.  God is my strength even when I feel I can’t go another step.

I can always be joyful that I am God’s child – forever.