Sunday, 13 December 2015

His promises are always greater than our failures

I am going through readings based on Christmas carols ( YouVersion, Carols, a Christmas Devotional) in the run up to Christmas, our celebration of the incarnation. The reading is just one verse: Matt 1:23 and the carol is:O Come, O Come Emmanuel 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, 
Shall come to thee, O Israel. 

Time after time, the Israelites found themselves separated from God - always by their own doing. And God would eventually deliver them, only to be betrayed by His chosen people again. So we find two constant themes in the Old Testament: 

The Israelites, no matter how hard they tried, were unfaithful God. 
God remained faithful and fulfilled the promises He made to them. 

Through His prophets, God made many promises. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel.” The name Emmanuel translates as “God with us.” It’s a remarkable promise - the Ultimate Being and Creator of the Universe promising to make Himself physically present with the people who have proven themselves unworthy. 

In one of the most somber Christmas songs, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, there is an embraced tension within Israel. They are in exile, separated from God yet again. With a sober perspective, they choose to rejoice in the promise God has made to them. With nothing else to cling to, in the midst of desperation and loneliness, they recall and proclaim the promise that God would be with them - knowing that, in spite of their unfaithfulness, God is faithful to His promises. 

No one could have expected a baby in a manger to be the start of God’s perfect plan to be “with us.” And yet, that is exactly how God fulfilled His promise. 

Are you waiting for God to come through on a promise He has made? Do you feel a sense of loneliness or exile? Rejoice! Rejoice! Through Christ, God has made Himself present to us. His faithfulness is greater than our failure. And His presence is all the reason we need to, once more, rejoice! 


Since God is “Emmanuel,” how is God with you this holiday season?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Playing hide and seek

Have you ever played 'hide and seek' with God, I have, and Jonah did, so that's two of us......

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
Jonah 1:3 NIV

Jonah found what God was saying to him to be unpalatable... so he went his own way!
Jonah KNEW he was running from the Lord but when a situation occurred, as a direct result of him running, he became determined to do whatever was necessary so that those around him did not suffer as a result of his disobedience. 

Those around him were very reluctant to take the required action, but Jonah, despite his disobedience, was not so far from God that he did not recognize what was right.

Notice in v15 that when they reluctantly took the action:
a. there was calm AND 
b. it was the beginning of Jonah's journey back to where God wanted him all along.

And the point is?

For me it was the level of Jonah's awareness of what he had done, his acceptance of it and the knowledge that certain things had to happen for the sake of those suffering the consequences of his actions. 

Even in his disobedience he knew something of Gods heart..... but he still struggled to come to terms with Gods purpose for him. 

However, he did love God and eventually Jonah set in motion a sequence of events that:
1. turned his direction towards rather than away from God - and 
2. Moved himself into a place where God worked for the good in the situation. ( but it was full of risk)

Rom 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

The second part of this verse which is often NOT quoted when people refer to it is crucial to its understanding & application - so what does it mean?

It is not only to do with being called BUT specifically about knowing and responding to that call in line with His purposes and His heart for us.

It seems to me that this is the key to understanding the verse......

It helps us to clarify what constitutes the sort of love that creates the spiritual atmosphere or culture in which things begin to work together - because we are on Gods agenda..... and NOT simply 'being us' but becoming more as He wants us to be, or at least realising that this is necessary.

We cannot simply assume God will work for the good whatever we do and however we act - it is contingent on us being 'called according to His purposes', even if we are late in moving into his purpose as was Jonah.... 

Fortunately the grace of God even reaches into situations where we have distanced ourselves from Him which gives us the opportunity to move back into His purpose, His heart and to be where He wants us to be.