Why A Baby?

baby damian

(FreeImages.com/Marco Ojeda)

My thoughts this season have frequently gathered at the sight of the baby, lying innocently and quietly in a manger.

I have contemplated the meaning behind why the Son of God came as a baby and not as a ruling prince in the prime of his life.

Why a baby?

What was God trying to teach us in coming as a baby?

I allude to some of what I was thinking on this subject in a previous blog post (https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/just-a-baby/).

As I pondered the meaning of a baby, something so simple but so profound struck me.

God taught us first to worship before He taught us to serve or to work in His Kingdom.

The angels, announcing the Savior’s birth, appeared to simple shepherds who were quietly watching over their flocks.  The shepherds immediately ran to find the baby and fell at His feet to worship Him.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, immediately sings a song of worship when she hears of His coming!

Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, immediately sings a song of worship when Mary visits, pregnant with the Son of God.

Simeon and Anna were two elderly people who daily visited the temple, waiting the birth and appearance of the Messiah.  When they see Him in Mary’s arms, they immediately recognize Jesus for Who He is and begin to praise God.

Wise-men from the East travel far to present precious and valuable gifts to the baby Jesus and to worship Him.

The Son of God’s arrival was announced by a Heavenly Host, praising God!  His birth resulted in worship.

The work part of His ministry would come later.

God knew that man would always be tempted to first seek a ministry or work before seeking to worship.  Why?

Because, it’s tempting to look to a ministry or work to find our meaning or to make us feel important, but authentic worship requires vulnerability and humility.

Instead, God is looking for worshipers and seems to indicate that worship is always the prerequisite to true kingdom-work.  In fact, worship and service are like threads woven together, and the third strand is always love in the center.

In fact, worship and service are like threads woven together, and the third strand is always love in the center.

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, let’s not overlook the most important part:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to men!”

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Just a Baby…

Nexus,hand,human,body

(FreeImages.com/Miguel Ugalde)

The background of our story:

Dusty roads; the rhythmic marching of a legion of soldiers; the poor and the infirmed begging for food; the elaborate robes and prayers of the temple priests; the bleating and smells of many animals; the jostle and bustle of the crowds; tables overflowing with dates, fish, and breads in the market-place; the din of merchants and customers haggling over prices; the wail of a child looking for its mother in the press of the crowd…

It was a world where you grew up fast, married young, worked hard, feared the oppressive rule of the Romans and the religious leaders, and feared the numerous diseases that could easily bring death to any family member at any time.

Some chose to “get ahead” by taking advantage of others.  The “some” encompassed government leaders and even religious leaders.  You never really knew who was trustworthy and who wasn’t.  Fear has a way of turning loyalty and integrity away.

There were those who lived in great wealth with a large collection of slaves to do their every bidding.  They lived in virtual palaces with elaborate tapestries, colorful gardens, elegant fountains, exquisite paintings, and magnificent, marble statues surrounding them.

On the other hand, many of the people lived in abject poverty: barefoot, dressed in rags, begging or stealing for food, exposed to deadly diseases, and the looming threat of barbarous punishment if caught trying to survive.

To live under the rule of the Romans was to live with the constant companion of fear and oppression.  (The Romans were known for their cruelty to anyone who was not a Roman citizen.)

It was into this dark and fearful world that we begin our story…

It had been 400 years since a prophetic word had been given by God’s people.  The heavens appeared to be silent.

The people longed and waited for a deliverer.  They imagined someone like David who would easily take on the Roman “giant” and would defeat him without them even needing to lift a sword.

Perhaps, their deliverer would be like Solomon and would bring prosperity and peace to their nation again.

Perhaps, their deliverer would be like Moses and would lead them to some new and promised land where they could live free of oppression.

Their dreams were always of a powerful and strong leader — someone they could rally behind, fight with, who would avenge the oppressed, who would set captives free, who would heal the sick, who would bring peace, who would bring hope.

Our story picks up outside a small town.

The glow of fires dotted the hillsides, while the sound of an occasional sheep bleating, the low hum of shepherds talking, and the lonesome notes of a pipe echoed across the valley.  Here on the hills, for a few blessed hours, there was quiet and an appearance of peace.

Suddenly, the curtain of heaven was pealed back!  Onto the stage of heaven and back-lit by the glimmer of stars and the glow of campfires appeared a shimmering host of celestial beings!

Heaven seemed to be making up for 400 silent years with an entire choir of angels, proclaiming two, coinciding messages: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to men!”

Heaven chose to appear to simple shepherds, on a hillside, to proclaim the news and details of their deliver’s birth.

The shepherds immediately left the hillsides and traveled into the small town to find the baby, spreading the news to those who cared to hear.

The shepherds found a simple carpenter, a young woman, and a newborn baby lying in a crude manger on a pile of straw.   Unperturbed by the surroundings, the shepherds immediately fell down to worship this baby.

Perhaps, it was this very reason they were chosen to be the first to welcome the Son of God…

…the shepherds immediately fell down to worship…

The world had no idea yet what a momentous occasion this was!  Many wouldn’t have believed, even if told the circumstances, that a baby could be their promised and long-anticipated deliverer.

How could a simple baby — sleeping for hours and completely dependent on its parents for nourishment and care — be the deliverer?  Why would God present His Son in such a humble form as a baby?

Perhaps, it’s because of what babies represent and how we are to respond to them…  Babies require us to stop, to hold them, and to speak gently.  When you hold a baby, your soul learns to pause and to listen.

The very way the Son of God came also speaks volumes of Who He is.  He didn’t come with a show of power and wealth.  He came with humility and in simple surroundings, telling an entire world that God is aware of even the smallest and most vulnerable.  He sees those that others overlook.  

God was sending a simple but powerful message that peace doesn’t come in outward displays.  God was saying that peace and good will come from Him.  He was saying that His glory can be both celestial and majestic but also wrapped in simple purity.  He was also showing that what He treasures most of all is our hearts and that is from where true worship comes.

The name the Baby was given was Immanuel, which means “God with us.”  God was saying that most of all, He wants to dwell with us.  In the last book of the Bible, God once again reaffirms His purpose for us:

Revelation 21:3

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

As you follow His life, you discover that the way Jesus or Immanuel lived tells its own story.  He was kind where others were cruel.  He was generous where others were greedy.  He was humble where others were haughty.  He was loving where others were lewd.  He was forgiving where others were fuming.  He was scrupulous where others were scheming.

He healed the sick — no matter their station in life.  He raised the dead to life!  He fed the hungry.  He rebuked the arrogancy of the religious leaders.  He played with children.  He helped fishermen.  He recognized and honored women.  He associated with people from all walks of life.  He was never worried about His reputation; He only did what was right every. single. time.

He spoke in parables and said, “He that has ears to hear, let Him hear.”  Jesus was saying that it doesn’t require a degree in religion, science, mathematics, or psychology to understand the most important truths.  He was saying that He loves to bring His greatest truths and greatest insights to those who are willing and humble enough to listen, to be led by Him, and to yield their hearts to Him.

He brought the truest form of peace to those who were willing to receive and see it.  He brought the bread of eternal life to the hungry.  He brought freedom from the greatest oppressors ever: sin, fear, greed, and shame.  He set the captives free because no one can enchain a soul that God has set free!

Ultimately, Jesus’ earthly life ended on a humble and crude note.  He died the death of a common criminal with shame, cruelty, and anguish His final moments.  Once again, the heavens responded by closing the curtain (darkness fell) and the earth itself shook (earthquake).  Jesus’ final words were “It is finished!”  He had finished what He came to do.  His death and resurrection were the means for our entrance into Heaven, eternal life, and fellowship with God.  He removed the sting and hopelessness of death at His death.

Heaven’s curtain is waiting to be lifted to reveal the final act on the stage of life.  It will be an act that will once and for all eliminate evil and will reveal the Son of God in all His glory to us.  At that time, “Every knee will bow…”

This Christmas, let’s take time to reflect, to ponder, and to worship… a simple baby but also a magnificent Savior!

Is There a Witch Hunt for Men?

Arm Men 1

(FreeImages.com/Terri-Ann Hanlon)

Today on Facebook, I saw a man ask the question if it’s starting to become a mania to bring accusations of sex crimes against men.

I think he is concerned that there is a witch hunt against men.   Are his concerns unfounded, or is there some merit to them?

Let’s look at the overall picture of what is happening and being said on public forums.

Recently, the public was made aware of sexual crime allegations leveled against high profile people in Hollywood.

To increase the attention and to make it more personal, there was recently an awareness campaign on Facebook that used the two words “Me too.”  A lot of women posted that on their Facebook status, and some shared their stories of grief and abuse.  For some women, it was the first time that they had acknowledged the wrongs done against them.  It became a step towards healing.

I believe that the purpose of the “Me too” campaign was to draw attention to how immense the issue of sexual offenses against women is.  Increased awareness is needed and beneficial.

Thanks to increased public awareness and media exposure, the sexual crimes against women are going to have greater accountability.  This is a good thing.

Yet, I do hear this guy’s concern.  He was a brave soul to mention his fears.  He wasn’t saying that bringing evil men to justice is wrong.  He was expressing concern that all men, including innocent men, become the targets of revenge.  I believe that his concerns are not unfounded.

If you look back at the history of humanity, you see that movements that begin from reaction rarely lead to a positive conclusion.  Take the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution as examples.  These movements started because there was injustice against certain classes of people.  The injustice was absolutely wrong.  Yet, what happened is the movements led to a blood-bath where no one was safe.  The cry for “justice” became an excuse to accuse anyone against whom you had a personal vendetta or to simply steal the property from an accused individual.  Instead of justice and a solution, the movements led to even greater injustice.  

Let me clarify that I am all for truth-speaking.  Anyone who knows me knows this.  I am not afraid to stand and speak up against injustice.  I will… to my dying breath.  That being said, if I am not careful, my cause becomes not about working towards positive change but about me being right and the other being wrong.  My motto becomes more about vindicating myself — actually more taking revenge for myself — than about helping both parties.

It is also true that if I continually focus on what was done against me, I never become more than the victim.  What was done against me becomes what defines me.  I am re-victimized again.

What I am not saying is that we should ignore evil and abuses.  Part of healing does mean that we need to address the wrongs.  Justice does need to be meted out to offenders.  As ugly as it is sometimes, the truth of an offense needs to be revealed.  There is healing for the victims in this and even the abusers in this.

What I am saying is that there is more complexity to the issue of sex-offenses and sexual innuendos, and we need to shoot effectively at the right target.

The reality is if we don’t address the root issues of these offenders and the attitudes and actions that led them to what they became, we will forever be “shadow-boxing” (as a good friend likes to say).

The questions then to ask are the following:

“How did we as a society get to where we are?”

“Is it because all men are bad, and all women are good?”

“Is it because men are just scum-bags?”

No.

As a married woman, I recognize that my husband is made differently and thinks differently.  Most men are just wired with a greater sex drive, and they can’t help that.  They think about sex all the time.  It’s the way their brain, hormones, and physique work.  If I don’t understand this, I will try to control and shame them, and that doesn’t help anyone.

A greater sex drive does not give excuse though for becoming a predator and viewing women as objects to fulfill your lusts.  That actually dishonors men and women.  We are sexual creatures, but we are much more than sexual creatures.  We are created with three parts: spirit (spiritual part of us), soul (mind, will, and emotions), and body.

Humans are not just bodies walking around.  We are bodies with souls and spirits.  To harm a person’s physical body is not just a crime against their bodies, but it’s a crime against their souls and a crime against the spiritual being they were created to be.   

Therefore part of the solution is to understand that all three parts of a man and woman need to be helped and nurtured in order for an individual to be healthy.  The answer then is to address the spiritual parts and soul parts of that individual in order to bring the individual back into proper balance. 

A sex predator is a person who has a huge lack in their spiritual and soul parts to the extent that the only thing that controls them (and imprisons them) is the sexual lusts of the flesh.

If we want to see solutions and true change, then we need to begin to ask the difficult questions.  We need to begin to see the parts that are lacking not just in individuals but in our society.

Our society represents what is happening on the individual level.

Do we dare acknowledge that we as a society are running wild with unbridled passions and lusts — doing whatever feels good to us, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong or harmful to anyone else?

Do we feed the lusts of our flesh — rather than feeding our souls and even more importantly our spiritual beings?

Sex was created for enjoyment, but we are not just sexual creatures.  More importantly, we are spiritual creatures.  When our spirits are being fed, our souls are nurtured and flourish, and our bodies, including our passions are fulfilled in a way that doesn’t imprison or harm anyone.

To What Or Whom Are You Bowing?

KP 18

(FreeImages.com/Ryan Aréstegui)

I had just heard very sad news from a close family member.  I immediately called a dear, prayer-warrior friend of mine to join me in prayer for the situation.

I briefly told my friend the details, and then we got down on our knees to pray.  As my knees hit the floor, I immediately heard the Lord speak to my heart: “Do not bow to [the] circumstances.  Bow to me.”

“Do not bow to the circumstances.  Bow to me.”

Within two months, our nation has experienced tragedy after tragedy:

…wildfires burning out of control, ravaging homes and livelihoods and more importantly lives.

…Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose, Hurricane Maria, and more hurricanes…  Winds and flood waters swept homes and lives away.  Devastation left behind.

…a member of ISIS rented a truck to plow down innocent civilians who were simply going about their daily lives, killing lives.

…spectators attended a concert in Las Vegas and were plowed down by a barrage of bullets, leaving behind 58 beautiful lives snuffed out prematurely.

This past Sunday, another gunman stormed a church in Texas and showed no mercy for toddlers, pregnant women, young, or old…  26 left dead.

There are no words.  I look at the pictures and think of each life, each beautiful face, and grieve…

There is no good about evil.  Evil is evil.

Evil and suffering of this magnitude can cause us to “bow down” to the weight of our grief and suffering — to “bow” to the magnitude of the problems and circumstances. 

God continues to remind me that as horrific as evil is, I am not to “bow” to it — to allow it to cause me to despair or to fear.

God keeps reminding me that there is a final chapter written.  Love always trumps evil in the end.  Truth always trumps the lie in the end.

God is a God of redemption.  Whatever evil the enemy of our soul executes will eventually become the very thing God will use to hammer the nail on the coffin of evil.

Remember the cross?  Satan thought that was the end of Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior.  It was Jesus’ very death that brought our salvation and our hope.

Death will not have the final say.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 45:23

23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Romans 14:11

11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

Hard To Love…

Handwriting - Love

(FreeImages.com/BobSmith)

I was grumbling in my bathroom today that some people are so difficult to love.  I immediately heard the Lord speak back to my heart: “Love isn’t about you.”

Talk about a readjusted perspective!

It can be very difficult to love some people.  Love though isn’t about the person doing the loving (us).  Love is about the person we are loving.  

If “love” is about us, it’s not love.  It’s selfishness.

Ouch!

Agape love is the purest and most authentic form of love because it doesn’t expect anything in return.  It’s not given based on the recipient’s worthiness or likability.  It can’t be limited or withheld based on an infraction.

Love just pours itself out without any thought of itself.  Love is never about self.  Love is about the other person.

The following passage in Scripture reaffirms that love is the strongest character quality and emotion of all:

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I was thinking that fear is a very strong emotion, but notice how love is more powerful than fear.  Love is truly the “trump card.”

1 John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Ingredients for Kids Part Two…

Baking Day 4

(FreeImages.com/LynnCummings)

I was contemplating baking again and ingredients…

It struck me that most recipes call for both sugar and salt.  They may seem to discount each other, but in reality, they add a different dimension to the taste of the finished product.  They are both needed.

They remind me of the importance of adding in both truth and grace to our parenting, along with justice and mercy.  Both are needed for the finished product.

It’s also interesting that most recipes call for more sugar than salt.  That is a good reminder that our kids need a lot of kindness and grace, along with our doses of truth.

Children turn out well when a lot of love is poured into them.  Want a sweet finished product?  Add in some generous heaps of sweetness.

People or a Cause

urban

(FreeImages.com/MatheusAlves)

We read the newspaper articles, and feelings of anger immediately flare.  We see the pictures, and outrage occurs.  You don’t have to go further than a Facebook browser to see that there is immense suffering and needs on this earth.

We may decide to join a cause that goes along with our feelings and beliefs.

Sometimes though, we focus so much on a cause, a ministry, a platform, a political stance that we forget that our motivation is supposed to be about people.

There are worthy causes.  There are worthy ministries.  There is a time to stand on a platform and to speak to the heart of a cause.

We just want to be careful that in our pursuit of ministry and a cause that we don’t forget the individuals for whom we fight.

If we are not driven because of authentic compassion and respect for the people, then perhaps we should get off the platform and get down among the people.

People are not a cause or a means to find your platform.

People are people who need to be loved, heard, and seen for themselves.

Ingredients for Kids

Spices

(FreeImages.com/MassimoZunino)

The other day, my husband and I were discussing our kids and their strengths and weaknesses.

It’s easy when you see various character flaws in your kids to become discouraged.

I couldn’t help but think how preparing food relates a lot to kids.

I realized that we often want to see the finished product when we are still in the mixing stage with our kids. 

It helps to understand that you can’t expect to see a finished product when you are still at the stage of adding in a generous dash of patience, a cup of kindness, a teaspoon of generosity, two cups of truth, one quart of grace, etc…

Parenting and baking require diligence and careful measuring so that the right ingredients go into the finished product.

Some days, I have to toss out the batch because I missed an important ingredient when I am baking.

Other days, I forget that it takes a lot of patience to wait for the baking to complete.

Baking also needs to happen at the right temperatures.  If it’s too “hot,” our products are scorched.  If temperatures are too cold, the product is never finished.

It’s all about patience, the right ingredients, right amount of ingredients, and the right “temperature” within the baking environment when you prepare food.  It’s the same way when it comes to raising kids.

Lord, give me patience.