Super Cauliflower is Delicious

Written by: Yves Blouin
with you to the end of the ageAs we reflect on the resurrection, Jesus’ final words in the gospel of Matthew is verse 28:20 NKJV :  “and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
“Lo” seems like such a blah, unremarkable one syllable, two character word to express the tone and meaning of what Jesus said.  I’m not a biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination and maybe this word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” wouldn’t be a good substitute.  A little hard to pronounce for someone like me that is challenged with enunciation.  However, it’s definition of “implying all that is grand, great, glorious, splendid, superb, wonderful” comes close to expressing the original meaning.  “Lo” is like “can you believe it” as in amazement and not a question.  It is a big exclamation mark. exclamation
Other translations use “behold”, “and be sure of this”, “never forget”,  “and remember”.  I like the latter but it would have to be in all uppercase letters – shouting “remember”.  We are now participating in the remembrance supper and it is called this for many reasons including Jesus saying  in Luke 22:19 “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  We remember Jesus sacrificing his own life so that we could be forgiven our sins but also of his victory over death, his resurrection which gives us hope of our own resurrection and eternal life.  We are also to remember that those of us who have accepted him as our saviour have fellowship with him now and forever as Matthew 28:20 stated.  He has sent us the Holy Spirit, the comforter, to live within us and guide us.
The word “remember” is such a fascinating word to study, especially around his death and resurrection, beginning with the Lord’s supper.  The thief’s declaration “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” really resonates with me.  I’m a sinner in need of grace and I want Jesus to remember me – no matter who forgets us in this life, Jesus has promised us that he would be with us and not forsake us.
As we remember what Jesus has done for us, let’s also know in our hearts that he will never forget us. And thanks to his sacrifice our sins are never to be remembered.  Hebrews 10:16-17  “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
1 John 1:8-10 NKJV – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
One of the few commandments directly from Jesus that we are given is to remember him and what he did for us.
We thank you Jesus for your willing sacrifice at the cross so that we would have eternal life and that our sins would be remembered no more.victory

Better With Time

Written by: Yves Blouin

Ray

This past January, preacher and teacher Ray Pritchard was cycling and fell when he rode over a patch of ice.  He ended up with a break that incapacitated him and required immobilization pins for an extended period of time. Ray had been trying to update his book “Keep Believing” for over a year but apparently could never find the time. Now it seemed he had all the time in the world and he just re-released it.

 

A friend of mine had been sensing God speaking to him to slow down but he didn’t have the time to do so. One day he was riding his snowmobile at a safe speed and the next thing you know and without warning, it tipped over sideways and he broke some ribs.  Now he had time to slow down.
There are so many stories where what seems like coincidence, could be attributed to God’s grace.  He steps in and intervenes in our lives and what appears as testing, trouble or misfortune is just a step in our spiritual development.
Grinder
To quote one of my friends:  God has stretched me beyond my comfort zone; as there were  some rough edges that I would rather keep, but they are abrasive to others…
I sure can relate, especially when a beloved one that will remain anonymous told me: “You read that many books and you still are a broken, sinful person that loses it!”  Guilty as charged!
Romans 8:31 (NIV) If God is for us, who can be against us?
Let’s look at that verse.
“God”, not just anybody but GOD.
“Is”, not maybe or perhaps but IS. There is certainty.
“For”, he is not against us or couldn’t care less.  He cares.
“Us”, that is everyone of us, including you and me. He is a personal God and cares about us. He orchestrates events for our good, whether we choose to see them as good or bad.
To quote Max Lucado: Had he (God) a calendar, your birthday would be circled. If he drove a car, your name would be on his bumper. If there’s a tree in heaven, he’s carved your name in the bark. We know He has a tattoo, and we know what it says.
Isaiah 49_16
“I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” He declares. Isaiah 49:16 (NIV)
That’s a lot of tattoos.
Romans 8:31 reinforces what we are told in Romans 8:28 (NKJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Mark 15:21 (NKJV)  Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.
security
We just read of Simon being pulled out of a crowd to carry Jesus’ cross.  How unfortunate he must have felt.  That reminds me of a time when I was going through airport security with a line up of over a hundred people in one of those lines that looped back a forth several times.  Then out of nowhere, a security agent that was 3 lines away picked me out of the crowd for a special search.  What are the odds?  Do I have a neon sign above my head that says “Pick me, Pick me”?  Did I feel special in a good way, definitely not.
Imagine how special Simon must have felt to be forced to bare part of someone else’s punishment.  This wasn’t just anyone, it was Jesus!  Simon in his misfortune got to share in Jesus’ suffering.  I have never felt as intimate with Christ as when I’m going through trials and sufferings.  The fact that we have such specific details about Simon would lead us to believe that he was in touch with Jesus’ disciples after the crucifixion and possibly became a Christian.  In his misfortune, Simon got to share a very intimate time with Jesus that he would have otherwise missed out on.
We’re told of Jesus in the gardens of Getsamene in Matthew 26:38-42 (NKJV)
Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
We may wonder why misfortunes happen to us but why did Christ have to suffer?   As we read even Jesus was hopeful for an alternative plan.   As we think of palm Sunday when Jesus had his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the people were expecting their Messiah to save them from the Romans rule why couldn’t it have ended there?  Why could he have not avoided the sufferings to come at the cross and started his rule?  Because we needed to be saved from our sin.  God loves us so much that Jesus was sent for us, to die for us, to pay for our sins.
swirly clock
It is good that we take time out of our busy lives to tarry around the Lord’s table to remember what he did for us, the choice he made for our sake.
Thanks you Lord that you oversee our lives.  If we are willing to tarry along with you that spiritual growth will occur.  Thank you for your willing sacrifice that saved us from our sins.

Musing on Hebrews 13:10-16

By: Yves Blouin

Hebrews 13:10-16Hebrews“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

As stated; Jesus suffered and died for us outside of Jerusalem on mount Calvary. The location was a high spot so that it could be seen by many; increasing the shame and sending a message to all, that he had been defeated. Little did they know that this was God’s ordained plan. Jesus was to suffer and die in order to redeem us from our sins and give us a new nature.

The old testament required different types of sin offerings but the nation’s sin offering made by the high priest once a year, the one for all sins, was the only one burnt outside the camp on the yearly day of atonement, called Yom Kippur. Yom KippurJesus who is our high priest was crucified outside the camp as God’s sin offering for the entire world. Jesus was both our high priest and our sin offering. This is in contrast to the Jewish high priest who every year had to offer a sacrifice. Jesus offered himself, the perfect sinless lamb of God, as our sin offering once and forever. Only on the day of atonement some of the sacrifice’s blood would be sprinkled by the high priest in front of the curtain used to enter the Holy of Holies where God had a special presence. When Christ died and shed his blood the gospels tell us that the curtain was torn in two from top to bottom given everyone access to Him. The sprinkling of the blood of the sin sacrifice in front of the curtain was no longer required. As Christ said “It is finished”.

When the epistle to the Hebrews was written, the new Jewish believers were struggling with leaving Judaism. They had one foot in Judaism and one in Christianity. Foot in BoatThis passage, especially verse 13 calls for the Jewish believers to leave the comfort of Judaism and in doing so partake of Christ’s shame and disgrace. Jesus was despised and rejected of men – a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. We can find application today outside of Judaism in that before we became Christ’s followers we took comfort in material things, other religions, family, etc. and by going to Christ and following Him we bare His shame. Sometimes it is family or co-workers who ridicule us – I know that some of my family when I became a follower of Christ thought it was a mental phase that I would hopefully get over – 30 years later I still haven’t gotten over it.

This is especially clear in our current political context where all manners of religions and sins are tolerated, endorsed and even promoted except for Christianity which depending on what country you live in is violently attacked or at best ridiculed and politically suppressed. Take the case of the christian Trinity Western university’s attempt at getting it’s law school program accredited. Trinity Western UniversityThe supreme court of Canada ruled this week against it because the way in which the TWU Christian community chooses to live, work and study together, sharing traditional Christian values. Most of us will likely continue struggling to put the source of our comfort and security totally in Christ until we go to meet him, having one foot in the world and one foot in Christianity or maybe just being secret Christians. I know I’m definitely not there but it is a progression and as long as we’re going forth to Christ no matter the struggles, trials or shame then the Holy Spirit is working in us to make us more like Jesus. I love what Spurgeon said “It is but a flea-bite here — and then an eternity of bliss! A moment’s shame and then an eternal honor!”

How are we to respond to Jesus’ sacrifice? One way today’s text tells us is to give God the sacrifice or our lips, thanking him and giving him praise.Worship It is said that at a future time all sacrifices shall cease, but praises shall not cease.

I love that as we are told to thank God with our lips for what he did for us that he follows this with a mandate to do good especially to the needy. Our faith cannot be only declared by our lips but also by our actions to the less fortunate. With such sacrifices God is well pleased.

References:

Spurgeon No. 577: Let Us Go Forth

http://nationalpost.com/feature/the-covenant-and-the-courts-inside-a-christian-universitys-law-school-crusade

https://www.focusonthefamily.ca/content/twu-law-school-the-supreme-court-s-decision

http://nationalpost.com/tag/trinity-western-university

Hiding our sins from God

By: Yves Blouin
Note: below are a few thoughts I had shared with friends at our communion service and that my attempts at humour might be misunderstood or simply poor and for that I ask for your grace.
book shelf
It always amazes me how God is mindful of us.  Why should he love us?
Hebrews 2:6-8 NKJV
But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.
That passage refers to Christ but in a lesser way it refers to humankind.  Why would God treasure us above all his creations? Definitely not because we deserve it.  Only his grace, mercy and love makes this possible.
If I wasn’t a sinner what would be the point of coming together to celebrate communion?  The Lord’s Table reminds me of what Christ’s love did for me.  He gave up his life to redeem me, a sinner, so that I could have fellowship with him.
HBCWhen I was 10 years old my best friend and I were looking at knives at the local Hudson Bay Company store.  I held the knife incorrectly by it’s sheath with my thumb over the handle.  It was very tight fit and wouldn’t come out.  Eventually it did free itself from the sheath and sliced the full length of my thumb, right down to the bone.  At that moment I was more concerned about what my parents would do to me than the pain I was dealing with or how gross it was.  We went to my friend’s grand-father’s apartment and wrapped the thumb in so much bandages that it was nearly a half-inch thick all around. thumb
When I arrived home I tried to hide it from my mom but she caught sight of it and asked me what I had done.  I answered like any 10 years old would… “Nothing” I said.  The blood had soaked right through the thick bandages and the colour was a crimson red.  My mom opened up the bandage to take a look and I thought she was going to faint at the sight. She rushed me to the hospital after which, it took several stitches to properly take care of it.
We often behave similarly towards sin.  We hide our sins under layers of pretense and self-righteousness – I know I’ve sure been guilty of this.   Just like how those bandages couldn’t hide my injury from my mom, no matter how well we deceive ourselves into thinking that our sins are not that bad or that no one knows, we need to remember that God knows.
scaleYet, we rationalize our sins and think that we’re not as bad as the next person.
It’s been well said that you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. I’d add to that, you can never fool God.
My first job after college was working in the Imperial Oil maintenance dept.  The leadership was interestingly composed of a majority of 1st and 2nd generation United Kingdom citizens.  There were some Scottish, Irish and English descendants.  One of them told me this tongue in cheek saying of how they thought of the other’s application of religion:
There are four kinds of people in the UK –
First, there were the Scots who kept the Sabbath – and everything else they could lay their hands on;
Then there were the Welsh – who prayed on their knees and their neighbours;
Thirdly there were the Irish who never knew what they wanted – but were willing to fight for it anyway.
Lastly there were the English who considered themselves self-made men, – thus relieving the Almighty of a terrible responsibility.
Fortunately since I’m descended from a french heritage I’m safe here 🙂 Kidding!vive la France
As an interesting note you wouldn’t know to look at her but Geeta (my Guyanese spouse) is 12.5% Scottish!!  And we know that Marc of his own admission at the pulpit a few weeks ago is approximately 28% Irish.  Not saying anything just stating facts. 🙂 Thankfully as Christians we’re not bound by our cultural heritage but by our spiritual heritage in Christ.  Our behaviour doesn’t always reflect this and the communion service is a good reminder of our need for forgiveness and our position in Christ – forgiven sinners.
I’m reminded of the story of the sinner and the pharisee. What a good illustration of how not to examine others but how to examine ourselves:
Luke 18:9
 

pharisee and publican

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Paul had this prescription related to the communion service:
1 Corinthians 11:28 AMPC
Let a man [thoroughly] examine himself, and [only when he has done] so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Notice that it doesn’t say to examine others which is much easier. How many times have we thought and even said: hey honey you heard what the preacher said… Meanwhile I should be thinking about how to apply it to my own life.
1 Corinthians 11:31 AMP
But if we evaluated and judged ourselves honestly [recognizing our shortcomings and correcting our behavior], we would not be judged.

C.S.Lewis

CS Lewis had a thought that wrapped this up nicely:
“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.”

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus! A devotion by Yves Blouin

Billy Graham Time

Last week several people shared stories related to Billy Graham and his evangelistic crusades.

 

My wife came upon this story about how the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” came into being:

https://pastorbradabley.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/the-incredible-story-behind-the-hymn-i-have-decided-to-follow-jesus/

In the 1800’s, a missionary from Wales who had endured severe persecution finally saw his first converts in a particularly brutal village in the Northern Indian province of Assam. A husband and wife, with their two children, professed faith in Christ and were baptized.

Assam and its surrounding provinces was located in one of the most oppressive forms of Hinduism — a place where the caste system was entrenched, and where headhunters ruled.

Their village leaders decided to make an example out of the husband. Arresting the family, they demanded that the father renounce Christ, or see his wife and children murdered.

When he refused, his two children were executed by archers. Given another chance to recant, the man again refused, and his wife was killed. Still refusing to recant, this husband and father was martyred.

Witnesses later told the story to the Welsh missionary. The reports said that when asked to recant or see his children murdered, the man said: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.”

After seeing his children killed, he reportedly said, “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.” And after seeing his wife pierced by the arrows, he said, “Though no one is ready to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.”

According to this missionary, when he returned to the village, a revival had broken out, and those who had murdered the first converts had since come to faith in Jesus themselves.

The Welsh man passed along these reports to the famous Indian evangelist Sandhu Sundar Singh.

So Singh took the martyr’s last words, and put them to traditional Indian music in order to make one of the first uniquely Indian hymns.

The song immediately became popular in Indian churches, and it remains a mainstay of worship music there to this day.

Eventually some of the American missionaries returned from India and they brought that song with them.

Finally, it ended up with Canadian song writer George Beverley Shea, and he made it a staple at the Billy Graham crusades.

 

Follow Jesus

 

I’m inspired by Christians martyred for Christ – the strength of their faith. Last week’s persecuted church was about Samiha Tawfiq Awad of Egypt who’s face had been severely damaged by an explosion at her church and her reaction was that of thankfulness to be alive so that she could reach out to her attackers and their families for Christ. My faith isn’t that strong.

Last night my family watched a movie called “I’m not ashamed” based on the Columbine massacre and how a teenage girl touched millions for Christ. We don’t have to be spiritual giants to make a difference in other people’s life for Christ – we just need to desire to serve him in whatever way Jesus leads us to.

Billy Graham, as great a man as he was, didn’t give elaborate theological discourses at his crusades but a simple message – the good news of our salvation through Christ. He left it up to the Holy Spirit to do the rest. His audience has been estimated in the billions. Our call may not be the same but just to be ready to give an answer for our hope to whomever will listen. 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

When I go and pick up Bradyn (my grandson) at his home I will buzz his unit and he will hear my voice on the speakerphone.  By the time I get off from the elevator he is out of the door of his apartment and running down the hall, squealing, giggling and calling out Papa, Papa.  I would guess that annoys some of the other tenants as the hallways echo with the sound of his voice, but you can’t contain Bradyn’s excitement and it gives me great joy.  God calls us to Him.  There is no guarantee that we will respond.  The decision is ours.  If we do come to Him we will not be disappointed and God will be exuberant even more so than we are when our grandchildren run to us to give us a hug.  When we respond, is our excitement subdued because we don’t want to disturb the neighbours?  

child running to grandpa

Are we concerned about what will our friends and family think?  Are we too grown up to share our excitement with others?

God’s calling on our lives is both to turn to his son Jesus and to introduce others to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit does the rest – we’re not responsible for the outcome, just to be obedient in following Jesus and tell others of the joy and peace he can bring into their lives.

Sadhu Sundar Singh

By: Yves Blouin

 

 

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A Christmas Devotional

By: Yves Blouin
Born in a manger
I’m going to share thoughts about God the Son, that is Jesus, that could seem irreverent or uncomfortable as we discuss Jesus’ humanity.  It would be more comfortable to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.  It would allow us to keep God distant in a neat package.  But God intended Jesus to take on our humanity because of his love for us.  Only through his humanity could he save us, to pull us out or our mire.  We need to be shocked afresh at the audacity that God became one of us.
 
We are emotional beings and since we were made in God’s image this tells us that God is definitely an emotional being.  The Bible is full of narratives where God displays emotions.  Sometimes it is anger, sadness, joy, but most importantly unqualified/unmerited love.
 
I remember when my children were born.  I was many things including silly, nervous but foremost full of joy.  My heart was bursting with excitement and love.  It only stands to reason that when Jesus was born God the Father was also ecstatic, bubbling with joy.  Imagine God the Father witnessing the human birth of Jesus – God the Son.  The Father’s joy at his Son’s birth.  It’s not a rational thing – it’s a full bore emotional thing.  Our minds should be spinning at that thought.  Can we fully understand or appreciate this?  This was the greatest miracle of all times – God with us!  I wonder if God the Father thought – Aw, Jesus is so cute, cuter than any other baby (by the way, full disclosure, in my totally unbiased opinion I can assure you my kids were the cutest babies).  Imagine God born as a fragile tiny little baby in a stinky stable.  Of all the places for the King of Kings to be born couldn’t God have picked a more royal setting?  And born as a baby, not exactly the picture of might and power, plus we all know what comes out of a baby.  Hardly what you would associate with the Creator of the universe.  Jesus needed to be washed, changed, taught to speak, read and write.  All the things that as a human he would require.  
Hebrew Child Being Taught
 
Did God laugh when Jesus did his first giggle, was he sad when Jesus first bruised himself or took a bad fall, was he proud when Jesus first counted from 1 to 10 or laughing when he gave Mary a kiss like only a toddler can.  I know that when Bradyn, my grandson, first grabbed my head with both hands, yanked it to his face and gave me a kiss straight on the lips, a) it surprised me and b) it made me laugh and filled me with joy.  Why would it be any different for God the Father?
 
I believe that Jesus, though a “perfect child”, was likely very much misunderstood at times. We would be forgiven to think that Mary and Joseph understood that Jesus was God and the Messiah given the revelations by the Angels but mostly through narratives that include Mary we suspect she didn’t quite understand until after the resurrection.  Imagine after Mary and Joseph had lost their 12 years old Jesus in Jerusalem for 3 days how anxious they must have been.  I’ve had to frantically look for one of our kids for only minutes when they slipped out of our sight.  I can’t imagine 3 days.
Joseph and Mary looking for Jesus Jesus teaching at 12
Joseph and Mary found Jesus Joseph and Mary reunited with Jesus
 
Luke 2:48-52 NLT
His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.  Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
 
If they understood that he was God would Mary address him this way?  Why would Jesus knowingly make her and Joseph anxious about his absence?  They didn’t comprehend his response and Mary stored these things in her heart.  Two facts that also stand out – God was obedient to them – what a thought!  God being obedient to a lower life form – human parents.  Not that parents are a lower life form than other humans – though some teenagers would like you to believe this.  Also it points out that Jesus didn’t start off with full wisdom but grew in wisdom.  Again we can imagine God the Father being ever so joyful at every new accomplishments that Jesus would achieve or at every new act of wisdom.
 
Mary and Joseph had an incomplete picture of who Jesus was and what was to come, yet did God love them any less than a great theologian like Martin Luther?  Knowledge is great if it deepens your relationship with God and leads to godly wisdom but not if it takes away from spending time in intimacy with Him.  Knowledge can puff up and it can plant doubt, it may dampen our first love.  God is looking for those with a child-like faith that set their pride aside to realize their need of a saviour – The saviour Jesus Christ.
 
To quote theologian Woody Allen (speech to the graduates on Aug 10, 1979 – same year that I graduated from grade 13):
 
This is where worldly wisdom or intellect takes you.  If those are the only two paths then there is not much to pray about or hope.  I would rather trust Christ for my future.
 
Colossians 2:8-10 NLT: Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and highsounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.  So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

C.S.Lewis
To paraphrase CS Lewis: Some people say that because Jesus was both God and man then his sufferings and death would have been easy for him and therefore of no value.  What they fail to understand is that the perfect suffering, the perfect death were only possible because He was God.  If I’m drowning in a river and a man who has still one foot on the river bank offers to give me his hand to save my life will I refuse it because it’s not fair as he has an advantage given he still has a foot on the bank?  I think not.
 
Ephesians 1:7Jesus was closer to the Father than any one of us has ever experienced with anyone.  Jesus already had spent an eternity with the Father.  On the cross he felt the separation from the Father for our sakes.  Christmas is a time of celebrations but also for some it is a time of grieving as we remember and miss loved ones that are no longer with us.  We suffer when we’ve seen a love one suffer, whether due to illness like cancer or some other cause.  We suffer when a loved one dies, whether a friend, a parent, a child and even an infant through miscarriage.  At the cross God the Father endured the unimaginable pain of seeing his son both suffer and die for our sake. Why? Because he loved us and wanted to provide a means to redeem us from our sins.  Our God is not a cold God but one filled with emotions.
 
Some of the following thoughts are borrowed from G K Chesterton.  Maybe you wonder how can God care about you and I amongst so many people in this world in the past, today and in the future.  What is so special about you and I that He cares for us.  Each human birth may seem like a mindless repetition to no end if we were to trust the intellectuals of the world.  Some of them would say that this repetition is an indication of the absence of a higher purpose or life.  But to God each birth is an encore with new possibilities.  Children like things repeated and unchanged.  For instance Bradyn delights having his Papa (what he calls me) help him do somersaults over and over until his Papa can’t move anymore at the shout of “Do it again”!  Bradyn doesn’t have a lack of of life but an excess of it.  Us adults are not strong enough to delight in monotony.  We easily get bored but children of a certain age exult in monotony.  Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  Perhaps God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun and at night “Do it again” to the moon.  The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.  How much more do you think God gets excited at each of us as we step out in faith, whatever the challenge.  He knows the beginning from the end (Isaiah 46:10) but yet he is excited at our every step like a proud parent at their toddlers learning to walk.  He is saying – “That’s my child! Look at him or look at her!”.  You pretty much know that your toddler will likely eventually walk, so does that make you any less excited about his first steps?  I think not and so it is with God.
 
Matthew 18:3 NLT I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
 
Mark, in his gospel, often describes a Jesus full of emotions.  Of the gospel writers he seems to do this more.  Interestingly Mark wrote his gospel based on Peter’s accounts – and of all the apostles Peter probably was the most overtly emotional guy of the group.
 
Mark 10:13-16 NLT One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
 
How does a child receive a gift?  With unbridled joy – especially if they are destitute.  The younger the child the more likely they are to be free of ambitions and pride and more likely to be humble and teachable.  God wants us to receive the gift of Christ in a similar manner with humility and unbridled joy.  Pride will stand as an obstacle to receiving this gift.  We may believe that we don’t need Him, that we are self-sufficient, that we can do it on our own.  But we can’t.  Children don’t have their lives filled with other cares of the world and schedules unless us adults impose it on them for “their own good”. 
 
Billy GrahamTo paraphrase one of Billy Graham’s thoughts.  What was the innkeeper’s response to providing a room for the child to be born?  It wasn’t antagonism, hatred.  He had a full inn.  He was too preoccupied with the cares of this world to take notice that God, Christ was at his doorstep.  In a similar way how many of our relatives and friends are not opposed to God or deny his existence but other than at Christmas and Easter are too preoccupied with the cares of this world to find room for Christ in their lives.  Their heart is already crowded with other interests.  They feel they don’t really need him.  Maybe like what Bradyn does when going for a walk we need to slow down and stop to pick up every dandelion on the way – be amazed by them, see joy in them and in the process take the time to open our hearts to Christ.  In the rush of the Christmas season, maybe, just maybe Jesus wants us to slow down and find time for him and at the same time maybe, just maybe our stress level will go down.
 
As Charles Dickens said, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child Himself.”
 
Maybe you think you can’t be accepted by God because of your past.  For some of us there is so much past.  I’m reminded of it every time I have to bend down to tie my shoes.  The good news is that we’re not forgiven on the basis of what we do or did but on the basis of what Jesus did for us at the cross.  Jesus met a lot of sinners in his earthly ministry.  He didn’t get on their case about their past when they came to him for their salvation.  He didn’t dwell on it.  He didn’t say because of your past “well you’ll get a 3rd class salvation, and you’ll get a 2nd class salvation”.  We all get a 1st class salvation that wasn’t dependent on our merits but on our repentance and his grace.  Repentance is humbling ourselves to admitting that we can’t earn our way, that we fall short and that we bring nothing to the table but the need for His salvation.  The hope of our salvation lies in his resurrection.  Death had no hold on Jesus and neither will it for those who put their trust in him.
 
Don’t you prefer to have a gift you wanted than a gift someone thought you should have?  Christ doesn’t want our attempts to merit heaven as a gift. 
  • Romans 3:23 AMP We all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:15-16 NLT: But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.

Shalom Napkin HolderChrist gave us many gifts.  Through his incarnation Jesus brought love to the rejected, joy to the downtrodden, hope to the hopeless and peace to the weary.  Lately (the last 25 years or so) I fit in the latter category of being weary.  Chester Donaldson one year asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said peace.  This is what he brought me back from Israel.  Mr. D had quite a good sense of humour.  It says Shalom which we know means peace.  It stays on my desk as a reminder of Mr. and Mrs. D. but more importantly in my need to trust in Christ for peace.  I’ve definitely not reached the point where I trust Jesus without fail but I’m a work in progress and definitely have more peace with Him than without Him.  There is no such thing as happiness or peace apart from Jesus.  It is not simply not there.
 
In summary:
  • Colossians 1:19-20 NKJV For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
 
What can we give Christ this Christmas in return for his great gift of dying for our sins on the cross?  Nothing we have is worthy of him but we can give him our hearts.  That is all he desires from us.