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Heavenly?

A quote I heard on Sunday, which has had me pondering into the week:

The critical question for our generation – and for every generation – is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?

- John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself

A global king

Those who know me well will have likely heard me talk about my sense of the decreasing value of national identity and importance of national boundaries in the next century, in response to technology and globalisation.* Amazon, Google and Starbucks provide just one example of this playing out in the world of international business. Conversely, in the UK we also see a call for increased devolution of government, and an increasing sense of value in local community.

At Christmas we celebrate the coming of a global king, who reigns today, and whose reign will one day be ultimate. I wonder what difference that knowledge should make in our lives as we reflect on different situations.

 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2 NIVUK)

Some notes from Good News of Great Joy.

  • Unlike Luke, Matthew does not tell us about the shepherds coming to visit Jesus in the stable. His focus is immediately on foreigners coming from the east to worship Jesus.
  • Matthew portrays Jesus at the beginning and the end of hid Gospel as a universal Messiah for the nations, not just the Jews.
  • One of the repeated prophecies [in the Old Testament] was that the nations and kings would, in fact, come to him as the ruler of the world.
Some questions/thoughts to consider (feel free to respond in the comments):
  • As you read the news this week, consider how many of the situations we find there are fuelled by a focus on protecting national interests.
  • How do these issues reflect the human tendency towards selfishness, rather than loving others above ourselves?
  • How might you ask a global ruler to intervene in some of these situations? How might this shape your prayers to the global king Jesus?
  • In what ways would you appreciate prayer to overcome selfishness, and increase your love and commitment to others?

 

*If this is the sort of thing that interests you, too, let’s talk! Leave me a comment below.

A big God for little people

Some notes from today’s advent reading. Desiring God have produced a free advent ebook, Good News of Great Joy, the content of which also corresponds to the daily readings in their devotional app, Solid Joy.

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7 ESV)

  • Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, he surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.
  • The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. “For your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
  • The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.
  • Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth. But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.

More: A Big God for Little People

Citizens of a new kingdom

Do you ever find that Christmas can sometimes bring a certain pressure? An inordinate amount of busyness and activity, the need to buy thoughtful and generous gifts, cooking the perfect dinner, and ensuring family harmony. Perhaps this only serves to highlight we’re not the kind of people we’d like to be, living in a world that isn’t as we think it should be. Through the Christmas season, wars and famine continue, people still live on the streets of our cities, families argue, and I’m still pretty rubbish. Sigh.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” (Revelation 21:3-5 MSG)

Christmas reminds us of God’s promise to bring in a kingdom where wars, injustice and even death will be a thing of the past, and where we will live together with God. That’s our hope. God does have a plan. The best really is to come.

He invites us to start living today like citizens of the kingdom that has not yet been fully revealed.

And even where that is hard, when I continue to fail, and people hurt me, God demonstrates his ongoing commitment to grace, such that we really can experience something of the kingdom that is coming, and something of its king who reigns today.

What one thing could you change to give those around you a foretaste of God’s Kingdom of peace?

Elusive peace

Like a candle flame
Flickering small in our darkness
Uncreated light
Shines through infant eyes
(Graham Kendrick)

Above the floodwaters is God’s throne from which his power flows, from which he rules the world. God makes his people strong. God gives his people peace. (Psalm 29:10-11 – The Message)

God offers us so many wonderful things, including hope, joy, and peace.

God can provide you with the unwavering quiet strength that comes from his peace.

I love the way God’s power in the Psalm is matched with the words of the song; God’s power being made known through a small flame, flickering in darkness. And God’s eternal power and wisdom, this ‘uncreated light’, shining through infant eyes.

God gives his people peace.

In what ways do you experience the peace of God? Where do you most need to experience his peace at the moment?

Finding rest at Christmas (and beyond)

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41, 42 NIVUK)

Christmas can feel like a busy time; shopping, parties, deadlines, and the marathon of church events.

It is easy to get lost in the busyness of Christmas, and to miss the things that are really important.

Whilst some of the busyness is inevitable, some can spring from a mixture of emotions and motives: avoiding a sense of loneliness; pride; guilt.

We see this happen in the book of Luke, when Jesus goes to eat in the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha spends her time running around cooking, serving dinner, and cleaning, which are very good things, but are busy things. Meanwhile, Mary sits in the company of Jesus. When Martha asks Jesus to tell her to work too, He tells her that, “Mary has chosen what is better.”

How might advent provide an opportunity to realign ourselves, looking to Jesus not only as the baby born in the manger, but the one who brings true rest, and calls us to enjoy relationship with him?

These posts are, in part, inspired by a Christmas Devotional available as a reading plan with You Version.

How are you going to enjoy some awesome today?

Gloria in Excelsis Deo

“…the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.” Luke 2:13-14 (The Message)

“How do you experience awe? What things cause you to become speechless when you see them?”

For me it’s often aspects of creation that leave me awe-inspired, and in particular, mountains, and seeing the world from above. So the photo I took yesterday of misty mountains taken from the air above Cyprus, reminds me of the awe I felt as I looked down on this scene.

I wonder how we’d respond to the awesome singing of the angels as they awaited and announced the birth of the God-man, come to bring an awesome peace to all men and women “with whom he is pleased”.

My reading this morning suggests that this Christmas, we “make an attempt to regain those awe-inspiring moments with God… Don’t let your relationship with him be ordinary, but rather make it extraordinary”.

Today I’m going to look for things that create a sense of awe and thankfulness, and try to remember to praise God for it.

Will you come back and tell me how you enjoyed awesome today?