I can admire toughness. The right kind.”
–Jack Schaefer (Shane)
“They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.”
–Hebrews 11:33-34 (NLT)
The First Advent, so many years ago was the coming of the Son of God to redeem mankind. Think of it–He came as a defenseless baby. There was not this proclamation, and yet there was with the signs in the heavens. Some people did not take notice while others were alarmed with the advent. A few, saw the significance of the birth; that a change in the world was taking place.
However, just because the Christ was now born, would live His life, and die for mankind then rise in glorious triumph does not mean that everyone would accept it. Even among those who do accept the individual must now work with the Holy Spirit within him. Dallas Willard wrote, “The invasion of personality by life from above does not by itself form the personality in the likeness of Christ….” Once we are saved by grace then we must grow in grace as Peter wrote, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….” (2 Peter 3:18, NKJV)
This Scripture indicates at least three things. First, it is a process, just like growth is. It is continual, and yet, at times there may be tremendous spurts of growth. Second, it is life-long. We never stop growing in Christ. Third, to gain this growth we must know more and more of Jesus. This is done in two ways: to experience a relationship with Him that grows, and to read His Word. However, a word of caution–this is not done by us doing nothing. We must learn and accept the responsibility of moving with God in our transformation. We are renewed by the “transforming of our mind.” If that is so, why then continue in the past things? They must be put aside or they will hinder the growth that the Holy Spirit desires within us.
Christmas Thought: “Somehow he [Tim] gets thoughtful sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant for them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”
–Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol)
Christmas is definitely a time for pondering. We should take the time and think of the wondrous things the heavenly Father did at Christmastime so long ago. I have already noticed that there is the hustle and bustle taking place. People are in such a hurry. Cars seemingly go faster, and stop-signs, forget them. It’s “get out of my way buster.”
We need to look at ourselves the way the Lord sees us. Put away the falseness for He sees through it anyway. There is no façade when showing up before the Almighty. People should see us in a couple of ways: they should see how we have changed into a new creation. What we once were, we are no longer. Secondly, they should see us in our effort to be more like Him. We now strive to keep His commandments because we love Him. We now strive to be more like Him and that requires effort on our part. Do not let anyone tell you that is legalism.
Love is a mighty-purifier of mortal man.”
–Ernest Haycox (Whispering Range)
“Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.”
–Psalm 51:2 (NLT)
“The world boils with contempt. The more refined the human setting, the more fine-tuned the contempt.”
Have you ever been in a place where you can actually feel the hatred and contempt? There are those who ooze contempt with their very presence. Truly the “world boils with contempt.” There is hatred everywhere and it is getting worse. People do not care to work out problems; they pout and throw tantrums if they cannot get their way.
It seems as if the world is in the process of working overtime to develop hatred. Hate for each other, hate for the intolerant, hate for the tolerant, no one is exempt. The devil seems to be snarling as he walks to and from upon the earth. Not only are contempt and hatred being spewed but there is much confusion as well. When confusion reigns, that is a sure sign of the working of the devil.
This is the season when God showed His special love by sending His Son to earth to be born. This supernatural event was held with contempt by the demons and even man was fearful as seen in the actions of Herod. Selfishness abounds! Even when giving much of the time it is for selfish reasons: to be the one who gives the best gift, the most expensive gift, or just to make oneself feel good. When true love is shown, which is rare, for few know what it really is, then the devil has a “vested interest in confusing and distorting love.” (Willard)
If a person wants to understand real love this is the time of the year to begin. Begin to relate to the love of God in His gift for mankind. The way to know love is to begin to interact with Jesus in all ordinary aspects of life and in the extraordinary circumstances.
Christmas Thought: “Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.”
“For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son…” Man was rotten, yet God loved. Man has evil residing within, yet God loved. Man can be downright despicable, yet God loved. Man scorns and mocks God, yet God loved. Man is full of hatred for his fellow man, yet God loved.
Instead of sending Jesus through the means of the supernatural Incarnation, God could have said, “I’ve had it…that’s it for mankind,” yet God loved. I have often pondered the scene in heaven when Jesus was born. Many, many thoughts, but there is one thing that stands out–God showed His love for man. That is something the angels cannot understand. I am sure there are ways in which they understand God’s love, but not in the same way as man. Oh, the love of God that sent grace to man!
As I walked toward Billy Denton, his eyes started to widen and I noticed his Adam’s apple moving. He must have gulped. I stared at him as I said, “Go release Charlie Gold!”
“He’s under arrest for attempted murder,” he mumbled.
“Not anymore! Where is his accuser? What happened to the witness?” I pointed my finger at him and continued. “If you had been doin’ your job the Doc and Judge Klaser wouldn’t have broken heads. Plus the fact that the person who did it has escaped.”
“You don’t know that the wounded man hit Doc,” he retorted.
“Maybe not him, but one of the other two fellows that were with him.”
“You still can’t be sure,” he insisted.
“Denton, for a law officer, you sure are dumb! Let’s go!”
We turned to go down the stairs as Molly was coming up. “Miles?” she started to say, then changed it. “Don’t you…” When she said that I waved at her and went on down the stairs. “I’ll see you at the diner,” I yelled as I went out the door.
Denton didn’t want to concede but he started to see the fallacy of holding Charlie. As we stepped on the boardwalk in front of the marshal’s office there was a shot. Billy ran into the office and I ran around the back. A man was horseback and had just fired through the barred window.
“Hold it!” I yelled.
He snapped a shot at me, I drew and fired as the horse reared. I was almost positive I hit him, but he was able to turn the horse and gallop down the back street.
Rushing back to the front I ran inside the jail. “Charlie!”
Denton was getting the keys and Charlie was laying on the floor. As Denton opened the jail cell, Charlie spoke, “He gone?”
“You alright?” asked Denton reaching down for Charlie.
“I was standing right where you are now, Miles, when I heard a horse out back. I saw the gun coming through the window and I dove for the floor and under the bunk. He fired, missed and I crawled under the bed. The angle was too difficult for him to aim, and that’s when the two of you busted in on the action.”
“Get your hat, gun, and come with me,” I said.
“What about the charge?” he asked.
“Let’s go over to the diner and I’ll fill you in with all that’s happened.”
Denton had his gun for him, “Sorry, Charlie, I was just doing my job.”
I looked at him with disgust and muttered under my breath, “You sure are dumb.”
Things sort of settled down the rest of the week. Molly, Marta, and Anihu were getting ready for the Thanksgiving meal we have been giving out since Molly opened the place. It was mainly for those down-and-out miners who were destitute. Molly always made venison stew and biscuits for them. It had opened up and several people would come by and partake; some would give a donation.
Charlie had gone hunting and shot a nice elk, so this year it was not venison stew, it was elk stew. I happened to be fortunate to bag a couple of grouse which we held back for our own Thanksgiving dinner. I figured that Molly had a couple of pies hidden as well.
After closing time we all set down for our meal. Charlie was there with Marta and her whole family. Doc Jones and his wife joined us. He still had headaches from time to time, but not as severe. It was a grand time, despite the events of the previous weekend. Oh, and the pie was good. Molly made apple and butterscotch pie, two of each. Anihu made something she called tamales. We laughed, drank coffee, of course, ate, and then Doc stood up.
“I’m thankful that I’m alive,” he paused and took time to look at each of us. “And that I have friends that care.”
From that point each of us began to share. It was Molly’s turn. She stood and began, when the door burst open. It was Tommy again.
“Come quick, it’s the Judge!”
Most men doubt their own abilities. You don’t. It’s no wonder they want to keep you around. It keeps them from having to worry about failure all the time.”
–Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove)
“Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?”
–Job 4:6 (NLT)
The second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NIV) That is something to ponder this Christmas season. There are several things to consider with this commandment. I have thought it over and over several times; finally, around the campfire I came up with another thought concerning this commandment.
One of the questions asked in Scripture is, “Who is your neighbor”? Is it the guy next door or down the street? It is the person you work beside, or sit beside during a game or concert? Is it someone you see broken down along the side of the road, or someone you find in need or hurting? The answer is “Yes!” However, I want to say that your real neighbors are the ones that you are most intimately acquainted and involved with. Who then, would that be? Family, especially the family living at home. They are the ones most intimately engaged with your life. They are the ones with whom you are first and foremost to love as you love yourself. Hmmm, they seem to also be the ones who are frequently where the most hurt occurs. (Thanks to Dallas Willard for the thoughts.)
Now, let me try and put this into perspective. One of the key verses in the New Testament is Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (HCSB) Where then do we witness first? Where do we first love others as we love ourselves? In Jerusalem–or home. Take care of family first, then proceed to your other neighbors.
Christmas Thought: “Let us keep Christmas beautiful
Without a thought of greed,
That it might live forevermore
To fill our every need,
That is shall not be just a day,
But last a lifetime through,
The miracle of Christmastime
That brings God close to you.”
–Garnett Ann Schultz
The beginning of the journey of Mary and Joseph took place because of taxes. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered.” (Luke 2:1, HCSB) The purpose of this registration was for taxation. No one likes taxes; it is one of those evils imposed on us by government. Little did Caesar know that while he was seeking a fairer tax system for the Roman Empire that he would at the same time be fulfilling prophecy.
On the trip to Bethlehem, where Joseph had to register, what were their thoughts as they traveled? Mary was very pregnant, expecting at any time. It had to be a tedious journey; they possibly made three miles an hour, more likely two with the condition of Mary. They had thoughts about the trip itself, they surely had thoughts about registering for a tax, and they also knew that God was doing something unique with them.
This journey was definitely part of the miracle. Let it continue within you, not only during the season, but throughout life.