Matthew 12:20-21 (NIV)
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”
Bruised but not broken, I think that is how my faith is best described.
I KNOW, I just don’t believe, that God IS, that Jesus came as man/God to earth, lived and died for ME (and you).
Those are absolute truths for me.
Looking back through the years, I have wrestled with how this works… as a very imperfect human. As a cradle Christian, who studied went to church, served on the Executive Board of a church, attended religious school, went on retreats… as the kids say these days, “I did all the things!"
Romans 9:16 (NIV)
It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
John 1:12-13 (NLT)
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan—this rebirth comes from God.
And yet, the miracle that I KNOW God was capable of, that we prayed for, was not to be.
Bruised, Battered, Beaten Faith.
I have always heard, "Expect A Miracle." There used to be an TV preacher (I’m old) who had a choir sing, “Something good is going to happen to you”… then he would say, “Expect Your Miracle”.
Whatever denomination of Christianity, we all believe that Jesus Christ solidified the meaning, the intensity and the power of those words.
HE arrived as a lowly infant born in a barn among cows and sheep. Of course, we have sanitized the scene…
We call it a manger, the cows and sheep are freshly bathed, the straw is pristine and this little baby is swaddled and glowing in the hay.
HE came as the lowly… many more human babies were born in the same circumstance at the time… the undesirables.
Jesus came as an UNDESIRABLE, yet keeper of the “Secret of Miracles” for humanity.
I have come to understand that Jesus came, in the midst of suffering, obedience and poverty….the very first miracle.
The miracle that he was the Son of God, born in the worst of circumstance.
The circumstances that these days, we would say are a consequence of choice. Dad (Joseph) Mom (Mary) didn’t aspire to college, mom was underage and said yes to something that was taboo.
Even in those days, Mary and Joseph were NOT the only ones.
Yes, they were the parents of the Savior… but that day, that week, that year, they were not the only ones to give birth under such circumstances
. Yet, Jesus, the Son of God is a Miracle. In God’s plan, Jesus was not a random Miracle.
God has a plan… ...how often have you heard that? God has a plan for your life.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jesus, who we have come to know through the Bible, through sermons, through experience is the Miracle we KNOW.
In believing ALL of this, why does the Miracle in our own lives that we are instructed to EXPECT, not to be?
What did we miss?
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This time of year, we hear “You got to believe to receive”. I think, it is often a reference for transitioning our children from the man in the red suit, to the reality of Santa Claus, the spirit of giving as we grow. It sustains the heart warming morning when things we longed for are wrapped in lovely paper and presented just to us.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We understand, and yet..its still magical. Don’t we long for Miracles like this -
“I believe, I receive?"
As Christians, our upbringing is filled with believe, expect a miracle…. we are shown at Christmas… wrapped in paper, that those we love, know us, gift us with our wishes.
Over the years, we laugh at the “hit and miss” of these tangible gifts….
God loves us more than all of this.
So much that God isn’t hit or miss…
God is good all the time, right?
Luke 11:9-13 (NLT)
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not!
If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
And yet, bruised but not broken….
My mother, the granddaughter of a Minister, asked for, prayed for and hoped for a doll. Christmas morning, her one gift was a black umbrella.
Could you even imagine the devastation?
As an Octogenarian, she recalls that year and relates it as practical rather than frivolous.
Is God practical, rather than frivolous? I’ve yet to comprehend, God’s plan…
1 Corinthians 2:7-15 (MSG)
God's wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don't find it lying around on the surface. It's not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene.
The experts of our day haven't a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn't have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That's why we have this Scripture text:
No one's ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.
But you've seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.
The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along.
Who ever knows what you're thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he's thinking, but he lets us in on it.
God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us.
We don't have to rely on the world's guesses and opinions. We didn't learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we're passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.
The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can't receive the gifts of God's Spirit. There's no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness.
Spirit can be known only by spirit—God's Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God's Spirit is doing, and can't be judged by unspiritual critics.
My Best friend, my Companion, My Dee, whom I met through our faith, spent 11 months battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
We were told she was terminal with no further medical interventions available, on my birthday.
We were transported by ambulance to Hospice House on our 30 year commitment to each other. She passed away, November 17th, having been fully anointed hours before in the faith that she embraced, in my arms.
For all these months, we prayed, we were provided with the best care, even though it would separate us, strain relationships, stress our children… and so much more.
We felt so led to the decisions we made, we prayed, our community prayed, we wore the shirts, we sent the donations, we made the phone calls… “we did all the things”.
We fully expected a cure… ...a cure meaning Dee would be here with me… finding ways to pay it forward… seeing our younger daughter graduate from High School, seeing our older daughter graduate from Medical School…
I think of that black umbrella… what part of our dire request for a miracle was frivolous? My Birthday or 30 year mark?
To God who is timeless… probably.
But, we prayed, we did “all the things” expecting a Miracle… that was not to be.
Bruised, but not broken…
All I KNOW is I am bruised and bloody…not broken because I KNOW, God has a plan.
1 Corinthians 15:12-28 (MSG)
Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling.
If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection?
If there's no resurrection, there's no living Christ. And face it—if there's no resurrection for Christ, everything we've told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you've staked your life on is smoke and mirrors.
Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there's no resurrection.
If corpses can't be raised, then Christ wasn't, because he was indeed dead.
And if Christ wasn't raised, then all you're doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever.
It's even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they're already in their graves.
If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot.
But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.
There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man.
Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ.
But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father.
He won't let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death!
As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.”
When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it's obvious that he couldn't at the same time be walked on.
When everything and everyone is finally under God's rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God's rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!
Advent = Coming
The 1st Advent: The 1st coming of Christ, in the flesh, as God our Savior. The 2nd Advent: The 2nd coming of Christ as our Supreme Ruler and King,
"Prepare the way of the Lord" serves as a main theme of the Christmas Season.
Just as we readied ourselves for Christmas, we should not neglect to “ready” ourselves for Jesus Christ's second arrival, who first came as "the Light of the world."
His Light penetrated a dark world, which allowed all to see their Messiah, and the Hope of their future.
Today onward, we need to be readying ourselves for the 2nd coming of Christ.
Titus 2:11-15 (NIV)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
Grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
Be ready and watchful, for the light of the world has come and will surely come again.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (NLT)
What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These perishable bodies of ours are not able to live forever.
But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown.
For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.
When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
What Hope, personally offered to you and to me, Who brings Light to our darkness!