Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year's Message

Regardless of how much pleasure spending time with family and friends brings, getting back home is always such a joy. So what has the New Year to offer us this time around now that the "party" is over; now that the presents are all unwrapped ; now that the special Christmas dinners are all over; now that fireworks no longer light up the midnight sky; now that family and friends are all gone back to their respective homes; now that, thanks be to God, we landed safely ; now that it is time to return to work tomorrow? What next?
Well that depends on whether or not you heard the angels sing this Christmas; whether or not you met and invited God's Incarnate Son into your life in a fresh new way this holiday! If you did not experience God in the midst of the celebrations, then all you had was a good time like many others across the world, and all you can look forward to, is more of the same old struggles of life and transient pleasures. But no real joy and no divine power to make a lasting difference in the lives of people around you despite the many and ever increasing ambitious resolutions made. No desire to bring Glory to God and no ability to wage war against the forces of evil

I have been intrigued by an excerpt of a meditation which I sent around to pastors ( primarily) on New Years day, and at the end of which the question was posed, " Are we up to it?". Up to what? Glory and Battle! That is always the next step for all Christian disciples day after day. Christmas after Christmas. Easter after Easter. Bringing Glory to God and engaging in a
" battle" for our own souls, the souls of others and for justice and righteousness in this world.


" Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher". Luke 6:40

........Did you choose to follow Jesus just to become better of to become new? You may have a clear assumption for what a good Christian is. Scrap it. That's not necessarily the model Jesus puts before you. He puts Himself before us and says , " This is what you will be like if you continue with Me and allow Me to fully train you. You will be different and you will be good; you will be both loved and hated; you will be both blessed and crucified." Do not expect the Teacher to train you toward your own objectives; a comfortable life, exemption from pain, a just-above-average morality. Expect Him to train you for battle and glory. It's His divine challenge. Are you up to it?

I have also been intrigued that the Lord led me, in this context, to read again St. Paul's famous words about obedience to the vision God placed before him on the famous " Road to Damascus " experience.
THE VISION " I am Jesus whom you are persecuting....Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by their faith in me". Acts 26:15-18 NIV


" So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds". Acts 26:19-20 NIV

What then should our response be to whatever vision, or instruction, or even this message, from the Lord this Christmas? Obedience!

That's the message from another of Chris Tiegen's meditations which arrested me this past week.


" If anyone loves me, he will obey me teaching" John 14:23 NIV

IN WORD How reluctant our generation is to link love and obedience...........Love and commitment are inextricably linked. Our actions and our hearts are joined together......A person's actions will sometimes paint a picture that does not originate from his or her internal condition. But a heart that loves Jesus cannot help but be zealous about His teachings; and a heart that does not love Him can only follow His teachings superficially, if at all. Love and obedience go hand in hand.......

So then, are you up to it, am I up to it? Up to what? Obedience! Battle and glory.
Finally I am intrigued that the words of one of my favourite hymns came floating into my mind
as I reflected on this message of battle and glory and of obedience.

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be Thou for ever near me.
My Master and my Friend:
I shall not fear the battle
If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If Thou wilt be my guide

O let me feel thee near me:
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.

O let me heart thee speaking
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self -will;
O speak to reassure me,
To hasten or control;
O speak and make me listen,
Thou guardian of my soul..........

So then are you up to it? Up to the battles that rage " within and without". The tempting sounds and the dazzling sights - the world that is ever near you. Buy, buy, shop, shop, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. A major potential problem, for the Christian soul, in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, is a pre-occupation with danger from without. And oftentimes, the dangers from within, are even more dangerous - to the soul; and the words of Scripture come to mind:
" Fear not he who can kill the body but rather fear he who can send both body and soul to hell.

Are we up to it? Bringing glory to God as the only priority in our lives. Hearing God above the storms of passion and the murmurs self-will. Willing to listen to Him reassuring us, hastening us or controlling us.
If not Christmas was of no greater importance, of no more significance, of no more help to our souls than any other ordinary secular holiday all because the " noise from the men of strife", within and without, prevented us from hearing the angels sing. And therefore the Lord Jesus, as in the manger in Bethlehem, found no room in our hearts.
But thank God for Jesus always, that with a repentant heart, moved by the vision of the Cross of Calvary, we can all learn to sing with confidence:

" But Jesus draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin", so that I may not be disobedient to the heavenly vision. Are we up to it? Amen