Remember Who We Celebrate

Advent is a good time to read about the tiny child born in a manger, the humble beginnings of a remarkable life. But I am reading the omega of that story.

Let’s not pass thoughtlessly by the images in the Book of Revelation. Let’s not glaze over when we read the uncompromising declarations of Who He Is.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord,

“who is

and who was

and who is to come, the Almighty.”

“One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;   He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”

I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

“Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.”

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”

And that’s only the first chapter!

The passages are visually astounding. The book is so visually strong. When we read Revelation, we feel like we’re strangers dropped off in a foreign country. That’s because we are. We are meant to feel overwhelmed, awed, small, lost. It is the place to open the eyes wide and be quiet, and to listen.

There are no grey areas in the declarations of His identity.

This Jesus-God from Revelation is the baby whose first cradle was a feeding trough. The all-powerful one is who He is now, without the disarming personas  He wore in his obedience and humility before His Father while on the earth. This One of the Book of Revelation is the One with whom we must make our peace.

There is only one response possible in heaven toward this One.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,  saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Jesus of Nazareth was among us on earth as a humble wanderer, a simple teacher who yet could not be suffered to live by the powers that were. These are the things He told us:

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you

You are my friends if you do what I command.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

 

Let us remember Whose incarnation we are celebrating at this joyous Christmastime.

He came first as a newborn baby, as helpless and meek a creature as possible, in order to become one of us. The people of the world are at a disadvantage when we celebrate the lowly child’s birthday. It’s a comforting image; whether we regard the manger story as myth or history, we feel good about celebrating the poor underdog babe and congratulate ourselves on our insight about the disadvantaged child who would become the great teacher.

In the carol “We Three Kings,” each of the magi tells of his gift to the promised king. This verse from the third foreshadows Jesus’ life as a man:

Myrrh is mine: it’s bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

We who believe celebrate the tiny babe. And we remember that he is also the simple teacher, the willing martyr and the Resurrected One. He is the one to whom we are absolutely accountable. Ultimately we must remember the One who revealed himself to John and showed us who He is and will ever be.

He will not be disregarded by anyone. This babe is really the one with all power, the One who will be the Judge of all the earth, the one with the Keys to Hell and Death.

Kiss the Son lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him

 

 

 

 

The Jesus God

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
Hebrews 1: 1-3

Human beings like to construct a God who we feel we are justified in rejecting. That way we can rationalize doing as we please, being accountable only to ourselves. We all do this. We prefer a Straw God.

But the book he wrote says we ought to recognize him by His Son. God = Jesus Christ.

We ought to see in Him not the god who commits genocide, the god who punishes disobedient children in eternal torment, the god who holds us accountable to silly rules and whose only response is to punish, the god who expects to be appeased. Or the god who winks at our mistakes because we’re really good deep inside. Not the distant god, the irrelevant one, the god of that Old boring Testament.

The Bible says Jesus represents God; He is the exact representative of who He is.  Jesus said so himself too.

I and the Father are one. John 10: 30


All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Luke 10: 22

I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father who has sent me. John 5:30

According to God’s book, Jesus was one with His Father. At a real point in space and time, He came to be one of us.

Do you have any bones to pick with Jesus?  He went about doing good. He healed, he raised the dead, he lived an utterly selfless life.  He was always kind and patient. He validated the worth of women, children, the lowly, the socially unfavored, the outcast. Then…

He went to torture, humiliation, abandonment and painful death. This is how we should think of God.  Here was God become fully human, hanging on a torture device and dying of blood loss and suffocation. Not for his own crimes, but for some abstruse offense assigned to him by those in power who wanted him out of the way.

He had no crimes to die for. He died on the behalf of others who deserved to die: me and you. He did all of this to show us Who God is. That is the True God. That’s how we ought to think of GOD.

Then, in order to show us the power and acceptance of this self-sacrifice, His death was undone.  He became alive again. The penalty was accepted and it is we who are credited with forgiveness.

All I need to do is recognize this and accept his gift for myself. It is a gift because I can in no way earn it; God had to do this for me.

That’s who God is: Jesus.

Atheists complain that God doesn’t force them to live in His presence forever

If we can work our way to God’s approval, why did Jesus die on a cross?

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we see no angry judge, no distant law keeper. The son takes his share of the inheritance (while his father still lives) and runs far away, where he wastes all his gifts, his share of the riches his father worked for, and finds himself helpless and destitute.  Ashamed, he decides he will go back home and ask to be a servant in his father’s house. He decides that he has no right to call himself a son; he wasted this inheritance too. So he starts along the weary way home.

Meanwhile, his father is looking down that road, hoping to see his son in the distance.  He has no reason to expect it, yet he waits on that roadside. One day he sees his son in the distance, and he does not hesitate. He runs to meet him, he embraces him.  He calls him a son come back from the dead. With nothing but joy, he prepares a feast and a celebration for this son who has been restored to life.

The prodigal son brought nothing back home but his shame and humiliation. His bitter repentance. He had nothing to offer in order to buy his way back into his father’s good graces. His father’s response to his return was joy and acceptance.

We have to learn who we are, who He is, and what our real relationship with him is.

We can’t feel how ashamed we will be. We don’t see how humiliated we are. We do not reckon how bitter our repentance will be.

But the reaction to our repentance will be joy. Fellowship, sharing in the presence of our Father, living in his love.

You criticize a Straw God. You see Him as the distant judge, the petty scale-balancer, the angry destroyer. That is what we see if we’re trying to look at god in a mirror.

You omit God’s representation of Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. The parable is from the mouth of Jesus. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. I Colossians 1: 15

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1: 1-3

I and the Father are one. John 10: 30

Jesus chose to suffer the just recompense for offenses he did not commit. He paid our bill. He, the perfect penitent, had to do this for us. We cannot in our mortal life pay an eternal debt.

He died a torturous death so that we would not have to answer for our offenses, so that no one has to go to hell.

God …who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…1 Timothy 2:4.

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Ezekiel 18:23

For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! Ezekiel 18:32

Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’ Ezekiel 33:11

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

Does God force us to love him? He could, but he does not.  My atheist friends keep declaring that they would prefer his coercion to anyone having the free choice to suffer an eternity apart from God. Yes, atheists complaining that God doesn’t force them to live in His presence…forever. Oh, the irony and contradiction.

God created people in his own image, like him in this one of many ways: we have the power to choose. God does not violate that god-like feature he gave us. He prefers that we make informed choices, that we are self-determined, that we are able to create, imagine, conceive of things we have not seen. He prefers that, knowing all that we know, we choose to remain in intimate relationship with Him.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

We have the free will to determine our way. There is plenty of evidence that to choose to love him is not foolish. The choice is ours.

 

How We Are Loved

The birth of Christ has much to tell us at all times of the year, and we may even be able to see its significance more clearly in the absence of tinsel, parties, and colored lights.

That Almighty God chose this way– as a baby– to send his infinitely precious son into our world is something we take for granted, but thinking about it yields much.

In mythologies the world over, gods enter the world of men as gods.

I grant there are stories of gods disguised as human beings, even doing so to learn the perspectives of lowly humans. Odin humbled himself and sacrificed an eye for humanity. God figures put people-masks over their glorious faces but retained their godhood underneath.

Only one became a human being, fully and without safeguards. He was a zygote with human DNA, an unborn child, a newborn, a dependent baby. Jesus was not disguised as a man. At the Incarnation, Jesus became one of us.

God does not thunder from on high and send lightning when you don’t obey. He does not float in nothingness and shake his smug and passionless head at your endless failure to achieve just enough enlightenment.

No, he waits at the curve of the road so he can see it stretch far into the distance, looking for you to return home. And when he sees you limping with shame, he runs to embrace you and welcome you back, celebrating with a feast for his whole dominion.

He was not detached. He was born helpless into a very poor family, subject to a powerful state. It is important to note that he remained subject to the established worldly powers right up to and including his execution by those powers.

Though He has every justification to shrink from us, divorce us, alienate us…He comes closer to us than any other conceivable closeness. God became one of us.

Why Shepherds?

The heavenly announcement that Immanuel had arrived first came to the least likely people. Shepherds were loners, spending most of each year outside the population centers, keeping watch over sheep. They were an essential component of society but they were nevertheless part of an unsightly underclass. They were probably the most remote, least social, most invisible people to spend this news upon.

The message came not to the important nor the socially connected. Not to the centers of city and government but to the forgotten wilderness. Why?

Consider that they were shepherds! Christ called himself a shepherd: we are his sheep. He lays down his life for the sheep. His sheep hear his voice and follow him. They trust him and only in him do they find comfort and safety. These men understood the role of the shepherd and to shepherds first this Shepherd became known.

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There is a simple principle in Scripture, and in God’s economy. The least will be greatest; the last shall be first. The father knows that it is the neglected, the humble, the poor who are likely awake to his message.

The shepherds were awake. Jesus Christ was born deep in the night. Most people were in every way asleep. The most significant announcement in all of human history did not put on an extravaganza in the palace of the most powerful ruler. Only these lonely shepherds, wide awake and vigilant, experienced an angel’s announcement and a heavenly host’s praise!

Note that we are commanded more than once to be, like the shepherds, “awake.” This piece of news was not anticipated nor expected. There had been no prophets for 400 years. Aside from Holy Writ, God’s voice had remained silent for generations. How astounding was it that these few overnight shift laborers encountered such a message! Almighty God opening his intentions to the world, sending a message of hope and comfort, through these humble men. What a privilege.

God has always commissioned humble messengers. The rich and powerful were rarely chosen to be the bearers of his message. The shepherds— poor, outcast, possibly unkempt — ran and told what they had seen and heard to everyone who would listen. They presented a challenge to their hearers! One had to meet their news with one’s own measure of humility in order to believe their story, and to join them in becoming “awake.”

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Do You Know What Good Is?

People tell us to do good, or to be good. (Verbatim.)

They signal their virtue by telling us they know it’s good to do good. But some of those people won’t define what good is.

Usually, they presume that good is what aligns with what they feel good is. This conception of good is informed by many things, mostly what their peer community seems to feel. But no consensus of human beings will correctly tell you what good is.

One example.

People who tell you to do good— in just such a reductive way —are often people who refuse to acknowledge that terminating the lives of unborn human beings is not good.

So don’t t take moral direction from them. Don’t allow yourself to be judged by them. Don’t be on the defensive with people who think killing children could ever be good.

Creativity

My husband goes to work every weekday to a job where he “draws” wiring diagrams for a giant aerospace corporation. I put “draws” in quotes because there are no pencils or paper involved or even possible. He designs them remotely, on screens, using software which management has been informed repeatedly is almost unusable and makes […]

Creativity

Room 101 was Unnecessary

1984, prescient as it was, has been shown to be overdramatic on some points.

We didn’t need state-imposed Newspeak to limit speech and reduce thought; our own addiction to the infotainment of the media has us willingly shrinking ourselves. Social fads have us willingly rejecting marriage and eliminating the desire for family life. More examples could be given.

Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. To you, the one thing you cannot face. There is no bravery in the face of it, only the impulse to self-preservation.

The reason every thought criminal must be taken to Room 101 is that, even after being broken, after confessing everything imaginable without reservation, one thing still stands between the citizen and utter total love for the state.

Winston and Julia believed they couldn’t get at your heart; the state couldn’t change their feelings for each other. That would be the real betrayal.

Room 101 turns a person against the person he loves. He is forced to betray the one he loves, wholeheartedly. And his love falls away. It is extinguished.

We do not need the state to strap us into a chair with a cage full of ravenous rats affixed to our faces in order to turn us into eager finger-pointers, condemning and informing on our loved ones.

We will scream,” Do it to Julia! Not me!” gladly, without duress, if you just tell us that we are on the right side of history. That everyone we identify with thinks there is only one way to think. And most importantly, that the people we’ve loved all our lives are others, on the wrong side, the callous wrong-thinkers.

Is there anyone reading my post who hasn’t learned this?