There are times so overwhelmed by loss and injustice that we call out to God, “Where are you?” So it was with Israel and Judah as the armies of Babylon arrived to defeat God's chosen people, decimate the land and turn the best and brightest of Israel into servants of the pagan enemy king.
King David's story contains all the elements of mankind's varied encounters with God. From shepherd boy to warrior king, from faith to rebellion, from power to dissipation – the one constant of his epic story is the purpose and faithfulness of God through everything.
If God did not seek us we would not find him. The initiative of grace is God's. In Eden it was God who came to visit our original ancestors and taught them the way of life, which they quickly abandoned. After years of mankind's selfish immoral living God came to Noah with a plan to cleanse the earth and begin again. God sought out Abram at Haran, calling him and his descendants to a more intimate relationship with God and a future when all the earth could know God. Through the curious twists of this world, now God approaches Moses and a people called Israel.
Growing up in the military was a life of constant moves, across the US and overseas. I learned to adapt, experiencing different cultures and finding my way to God. Looking back I can identify people and experiences through which God drew me to salvation.
Among my favorite art objects is a hand-carved Noah's ark and a delightful collection of animals parading two-by-two, including penguins and elephants. Noah's story presents a sobering picture of humanity's spiritual foolishness and God's overcoming grace.
Although Romans is aptly seen as Paul's greatest theological statement, I think of it as his ode to God's unequaled love. Some see today's text as affirmation of the doctrine of predestination, that each of us comes into this world with a predetermined pattern of destiny. Such an interpretation denies grace and God's very character.
I had been building a relationship with an acquaintance in our city, but hit a stone wall when I urged him to accept Christ. Without animosity he explained: “I've watched churches all my life and notice you fight over all kinds of ideas and doctrines. I can't see myself becoming part of a religion that always seems to be fighting while claiming to represent God's love.”
No nonsense! This is Paul's clear statement to a young man serving Christ in a very difficult situation. But don't hurry through the words as though they only apply to a pastor, because we are all challenged by God's grace to live as his ministers in our circumstances.
Through the years I have admired many people for their hard choices, integrity, accomplishments or sacrifices. None of my heroes have been perfect, but they share one characteristic: each one has made a key choice that empowered them to make the world a better for someone else, often at great personal expense. What would you be willing to give up to help someone find the life-changing grace of God?
Today is THE day! Hallelujah! From your facial expression, although you are at church, you look stressed, exhausted and not in a “hallelujah” mood. You have gotten beyond the Thanksgiving family gathering, the Macy's parade, decorating the house, buying the gifts, keeping a schedule of all the school-church-community events, volunteering at the holiday pantry, getting out the Christmas cards and cooking! That sleepy little town of Bethlehem sounds alluring. Merry Christmas! Celebrate!