Christmas Day Musing: Christmas Present- Moments of Reflected Love

Today’s thoughts focus on Christmas in the present; the here and now of the celebration. It is the actively taking time to recognize God’s gift of coming to earth, the “God with us.” So, the day is spent celebrating love. We engage in loving others in varied ways as a reflection of God’s gift of love to us. It demonstrates the “we love because he first loved us.” This celebration of love is highly anticipated. How we demonstrate love towards others goes through moments of preparation, anticipation, and then celebration with fellowship. We identify how we are going to bless others in preparation. We love forward both to giving and receiving. Even children look forward to reactions to simple small gifts and parents and family then show love by showing appreciation for the simply things. We want to see others touched by our gifts of love. Then comes the actual moment of giving which comes with celebration and fellowship. We consider others and look forward to seeing how we touch them. Granted, many times we can swing and miss in the connection. Yet, no matter what there are special times in the present moment of Christmas. These moments can display God’s love, for He thought of each of us and gives a gift beyond measure if it that gift is received. We are able to enter in relationship to God rather than continue in the separation due to our own falters and twisted being apart from God’s ways has been repaired and reconciled if agree to accept the gift and let it change you. If not, then these moments are moments and that either gives you a piece of love or builds you up, or fall short. The moments that do touch and precious and each moment forward it is a part of you as it enters from the present into the past. So, this year, in the hustle, the bustle, and the interaction with loved ones. How were you touched with love? How did you touch others? Where did you get a taste of love? For even in the worst of times, the driest of years, God’s love and reflections of love are around. For always in the Christmas present, and every day, God shows His love. He shows by his own interactions, by the loving acts of others, and your loving actions. God takes whatever is now, uses it to draw you closer to Him. So embrace the moment and accept the love. In whatever the season: be it pleasure or pain, planting or harvest, drought or abundance, storm or calm, joy or sorrow. God will use whatever is, in this moment and His love is there to be found for always in Christmas present and beyond God is with us, there is peace on earth and goodwill to mankind.

Musing on the Ascension and waiting

Yesterday was the anniversary day of the Ascension. The day Jesus returned to Heaven.  He spent forty days on earth after the Resurrection teaching and explaining things to the disciples.  There are a few interactions recorded in scripture of some of the time He spent but most of it was not. Basically, the forty days were spent with Jesus really explaining the meaning of scripture to the disciples in relation to what just happened. He made sure they were on a sure ground of understanding. In the Gospel of Luke he is described as opening their minds to understand scripture. In the book of Acts he is described as teaching them about the Kingdom of God.   Jesus took time to make sure they fully understood and had full knowledge before he returned to heaven. He also gave them instruction to wait.  They were waiting for the power, the Comforter that was promised.  They waited because the knowledge itself was not enough; the power of the Holy Spirit was needed.  So the disciples waited. 

The ascension was definitely a strange day for the disciples. They had to be awe struck as they saw Jesus leave. Acts describes them as just standing there staring. They needed a message from angels to get them moving again and they followed direction.  The emotions had to be raw. There had to be pain of separation. They had forty days of joy and learning and wondering what would happen next.  The learned new insights and really began to fully understand and then Jesus left with instructions to wait.   Since they were all gathered together on Pentecost, I believe they were told how long they had to wait and the importance of the day to come. No it is possible Jesus did not spell it out and they all were together to celebrate the feast. God does often leaves waiting without the details, but I believe Jesus told them enough to know that the coming Feast something important would happen.  So they waited and prayed. Excitement and anxiety building each day for what would come. 

Waiting is difficult.  When waiting on God to act and move in His time is challenges faith. There is the mix of anxiety and excitement.  There are often encroaching doubts and questions.  Especially in relations to be sure of understanding fully what God has shown us.  The time is best spent seeking God, taking time to understand what has gone on, make preparations for what is ahead, but still it is waiting.  Often God works as he did here.  He gives us times of knowledge, learning, and growth. He then has us enter a time of waiting and preparation.  The waiting period serves to let us more deeply grasp what we learned and let it reach a level beyond just knowledge.  Sometimes the waiting is tough, particularly if we are not given specifics of when.  However, knowing the specifics does not make it any easier.  There is always a temptation not to wait, to take matters into own hands and bring about what God promises on our own.  Scripture is filled with examples of such choices.  In the days following the Ascension though we have a picture of faithful waiting. 

Ultimately we are all in an ongoing process of waiting that is undefined. Jesus has left and his return is soon. We have the Holy Spirit to direct and comfort us, to leads us in to the right paths and to build us up and cleanse us.  We have the ongoing work of salvation and sanctification going on in our lives.  Yet, the waiting gets tough.  We live in a world filled with darkness filled with pain and suffering. Each of our lives is touched with pain and sorrow.   We lose focus. The pains, doubts, and anxiety overwhelm us. God’s love and plan is questioned. We easily get distracted and lose focus.  Yet, Jesus is coming soon.   Yet, while he is in Heaven making all preparations, he is still active and he is here.  We have access through the Holy Spirit and He is here. 

So we wait and we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  We are to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  We can rest simply on our knowledge and what is written in God’s word. Yet, the disciples were told to wait for more. We cannot diminish or separate the importance of the Holy Spirit and His empowerment.  For if we are acting simply of our own knowledge are efforts are of self and weak. When we are following the lead of the Holy Spirit and acting at His direction, God moves in powerful ways. Sometimes we are aware and see the result, often it is unseen for we are at the time where each day is a day to grow in faith.  Waiting is really about time to grow and build faith.  In waiting we learn the limits of our faith. In waiting God causes what he has done to grow and take root.  Waiting is a really a Holy time we really struggle to grasp. The ten days that the disciples waited before being empowered by the Holy Spirit were a special, God ordained time.   The time is painful, difficult, and intense but God has a purpose.  When waiting follow the disciples lead and review, worship, pray, and prepare.  Do not retreat into fear and anxiety but look ahead and behind for the time that is coming, what God has in store is glorious.  When Jesus returns there will be no greater day. When God acts in our life in the now, it reflects that greater glory as he moves in deeper maturity and dependency on Him.

Passion Week Musings: The Garden Betrayal

After the Last Supper the scene moves to the Garden and the eventual betrayal. There are two main reactions to focus on during the time in the garden, Jesus action and that of the disciples. Jesus was under intense emotions and stress. He was about to undergo something that none of us can grasp. He knows he is about to die a horrid death. He knows he is to be sacrificed. He is at a moment of intense anticipation for the events ahead. So what he did was seek the father. He resisted the temptation to run or go another way. He stayed true and let his heart out toward the Father. His emotions and struggle was so intense that his body could not hold up under the emotional distress and he started sweating blood. Take you most intense emotional stress and it will not come close to the agony Jesus was experiencing. Yet, he continued to submit to the will of the father, knowing that there is no other way to redeem mankind for if there was any other way it would have happened.

Now during the period of time that Jesus is undergoing this intense emotional struggle while awaiting the betrayal the disciples were there. Jesus asked them to stand by, watch, and pray. The disciples tried to follow suit but the fell asleep. Jesus did not condemn them for their failures. He was aware that their spirits were willing, they tried to follow suit, but they could not overcome and resist the flesh. They fell asleep. He found them sleeping and the third time he did not even bother to waken them until the betrayer arrived. When the moment arrives, he declares there ongoing status of sleeping and then awakens them to let them know the time has come. As the event unfold, the disciples end up ready for a fight, Peter even gets aggressive. Jesus remains steadfast. So it is clear that in spite the teaching and preparation they did not understand. They were still focused on a conquering messiah in spite of Jesus telling them over and over he would suffer death, this may even been part of their struggle with flesh. They did not really know why they needed to watch and pray. They were confident and had faith in Jesus and were ready to fight with him. They were not ready to see the one they loved so much and put faith in turned over to suffer and die.

Today the church is not really in a different place then the disciples. We know Jesus is coming soon. We are aware of events and signs to watch for. Yet we get caught up in the cares of world. We have our goals and plans and dreams we want to accomplish or experience before His return. These very things cause is to be weak in flesh and ultimately to fall asleep. God directs us to watch, pray, and be sober. Yet, we all fall asleep. Every one of us, for ultimately we fail to fully understand and grasp what is going to happen. In our spirit we long for the return, but in our flesh it is another story, so we fall asleep. It is much better to watch and pray and stand firm, yet it does stretch our limits. Now some fellow believers focus and hope on the “Rapture” of the church, yet know this, we need to be awake. If you rest in a perception of coming safety when the world is already growing darker, it is really a form of slumber. God like the disciples gives us preparation and will direct us what we need to do to stand firm and not falter. Yet, for us often the spirit is willing but the flesh is week so we sleep in the appearance of current and coming safety. Meanwhile there is a roaring lion about looking who he may devour. There is evil going on, sometimes coordinated, sometimes just in synchronicity. If we slumber, we falter and fail to stand firm.