Tag Archives: human-rights

The Just Will Rise – Ravi Zacharias

 

In his famed “I have a Dream speech,” Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed: “We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” At these words, King painted for a troubled nation a powerful image of hope, and forever rooted the civil rights movement in images of justice and the image of God.

The images presented in the book of Daniel are similarly rooted in images of justice and God. In fact, it is for this reason that the sixth chapter of Daniel was a favorite Scripture passage among civil rights preachers in the early 1960s. The story told in Daniel 6 presents a king who loses sight of his purpose as king and the purpose of the law, creating a system void of justice and a law that only hinders and traps its makers. But against the images of lawlessness and corruption, the story portrays a silent but active Daniel clinging to a higher law, bowing before the King of Kings in the midst of persecution, in the hands of his oppressors, and the shadows of the lions’ den. Living within the hopelessness of exile, sweltering under the heat of injustice, Daniel unflinchingly declares the sovereignty of God, and with faithfulness and perseverance refuses to believe otherwise.

In a kingdom in which he was a mere foreigner, Daniel was appointed a position of great authority because the king found him to be useful. The story quickly hints that in the peaceful dominion of King Darius all is not peaceful. The leaders serving under Daniel want to get rid of him. The story does not provide a thorough explanation for their hatred of Daniel and yet, perhaps in this silence much is said. The nature of any prejudice is absent of explanation. Without reason, without logic, we discriminate and are discriminated against. There is no explanation because to explain our reasons behind prejudice is to become our own judge. In fact, Daniel’s enemies announce their illogic when they conclude, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God” (6:5).

Whatever their motivation, the men proceed with their plan. Approaching the king with flattery that he does not refuse, they convince him to establish an ordinance that holds the kingdom accountable to praying only to him. The king, who is pleased with his high and lofty position and his authority to rule, agrees to test the loyalty of his citizens, and to make the law irrevocable.

It is significant to note that Daniel does not speak until the end of the story, yet throughout it, he is anything but complacent. Knowing the document had been signed, Daniel goes to his house, opens his windows, faces Jerusalem, and prays as he had done before. Just as planned, he is immediately caught by the men who are quick to point out his guilt before the king. While the king stands guilt-ridden, Daniel stands accused, and nothing can be done to save him. Bound by his own law, the king must release his faithful servant into the hands of injustice. Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den, which is then sealed at the remorseful hand of the king.

As we await the outcome, the injustice of the situation palpable, the voices we most want to hear from remain discouragingly silent. We hear nothing from the lips of Daniel. And we hear nothing from the mouth of Daniel’s God.

In the face of injustice, silence is indeed oppressive; filled at once with despairing questions. Where is God? What of the silent victims? Who will speak over the deafening sounds of injustice, over the word games and manipulative arguments, when hands are tied, options are exhausted, and fates seem irreversible?

Daniel eventually speaks, but only after his irreversible sentence was overruled by the hand of God. Daniel’s story, not unlike the stories of the civil rights movement worldwide, is a declaration that in silence God is still acting, in the weariness of injustice, in the shadows of those who seek to devour, God is sovereign. Justly, thankfully, God comes near to the oppressed. “Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise.”

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Rejoicing in Assurance – John MacArthur

 

“You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit’s ministry in your life is multifaceted and profound. Among other things He brings salvation, conviction, guidance, and strength. He indwells and equips you for spiritual service and gives assurance of your salvation. He is your Helper and Advocate. He is the Spirit of promise, who seals you until the day when your redemption is fully realized (Eph. 4:30).

Sealing speaks of security, authenticity, ownership, and authority. Ancient kings, princes, and nobles placed their official seal on documents or other items to guarantee their inviolability. To break the seal was to incur the wrath of the sovereign whom it represented (cf. Dan. 6:17; Matt. 27:62-66).

A seal on a letter authenticated it as from the hand of the one whose seal it bore. Legal documents such as property deeds and wills were often finalized with an official seal. Those who possessed the sealed decree of a king had the king’s delegated authority to act on that decree.

Each of those aspects of sealing is a picture of the Spirit’s ministry. He is God’s guarantee that your salvation is inviolable and that you are an authentic member of His kingdom and family. You are His possession–having been purchased with His Son’s precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20). You are His ambassador with delegated authority to proclaim His message to a lost world (2 Cor. 5:20).

The Spirit is the pledge of your eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:14). The Greek word translated “pledge” in that verse (arrab[ma]on) was used of down payment or earnest money given to secure a purchase. Rejoice in the assurance that God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), has given you His Spirit as a guarantee that He will keep His promises.

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for the security of your eternal inheritance.

Praise the Spirit for His many ministries in your life. Be sensitive to His leading today so that your ministry to others will be powerful and consistent with His will.

 

For Further Study:  Read Esther chapters 3, 8. What role did the king’s signet ring play in the decree of Haman (chapter 3)? The decree of Ahasuerus and Mordecai (chapter 8)?

The Basic Principle of Prosperity – Charles Stanley

 

Psalm 24:1-2

The basic principle of real prosperity is elementary. In fact, it boils down to four simple words: God owns it all.

Even for mature Christians, this truth can be difficult to grasp fully and put into practice. After all, it runs counter to the thinking of modern culture. However, Scripture repeatedly reminds us that God is the Creator and therefore the one who rightfully holds the deed to everything in creation.

According to Haggai 2:8, the Lord also lays claim to the silver and gold—in other words, all currency is His. Psalm 50:10 puts it a different way, telling us that He owns “the cattle on a thousand hills.”

Since God consistently reiterates that He is the exclusive owner of all creation, we should respond appropriately when using His resources—including money. In other words, we should have exactly the same response as when using something that belongs to our neighbors: ask permission to use it; honor the owner’s instructions and do just as he has designated; take no unnecessary risks; handle it the way we would want others to handle one of our possessions; and return it in a timely manner, preferably in better condition or more plentiful than before.

And then say “Thank You.”

First Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Understanding that God is the rightful owner and we are simply managers of His resources will help us have the proper attitude about wealth—namely, gratefulness rather than entitlement.

Humans Like Us – Ravi Zacharias

 

The 12th of January 2012 saw an India deeply shocked and embarrassed by a certain footage released by the British Newspaper The Observer, which showed half-clad Jarawa tribal women and children enticed to dance and sing for tourists in exchange for food and trinkets. Who are the Jarawas we may ask? The Jarawas are the tribal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands situated a few miles from southeast India. With an existing population of about 250-400 individuals, they are the descendants of one of the four ancient Negroid tribes who were stranded on the Andamans because of rising sea water. Apparently, this particular community still lives in complete isolation, cut off from any education, health care, or development.

Minutes after this footage from The Observer, a huge public outcry followed as newspapers, TV anchors, and people from various walks of life came forward to express their outrage at human beings treated “like zoo animals made to dance for food.” Television channels were abuzz with debates and discussions on this issue of “human safari,” as it was termed. It was interesting to observe the various reactions and responses sparked off by the issue: some NGOs demanded the immediate closure of Jarawas territory to tourists, others wanted the government to ensure that the Jarawas continue to be cocooned in seclusion and isolated from the mainstream population to protect them from disease and cultural degradation.

What is it about this issue that rankles so, and raises such a storm of protest? I think the answer is succinctly put by Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, a noted columnist who responded with an article in the Times of India: “Jarawas are human beings… just like us.”(1) The Jarawa issue was disturbing simply because it is about “human beings just like us.” Pertinent questions may arise: What is so special about being human? What is so great about being “us”? If we believe that mankind is just another species of animal, then why should we worry ourselves when human beings are treated like one? As for those who believe that everything is maya, or illusion, there is absolutely no reason for protest, for if everything is an illusion, then the Jarawas too are an illusion. They are not real; so the question of how they are treated or mistreated does not arise.

The biblical worldview gives a contrasting response to the Jarawas and the question of what it means to be human. The Bible asserts that human beings are created by God and in God’s own image. This fact of being specially created by a personal God gives humanity both worth and purpose. We recognize somewhere in our very beings that a human cannot be treated like an animal simply because he or she is more than this. He is different! She is special!

As King David reflects on the mystery of being human in Psalm 8:

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned them with glory and honor.

In the outcry heard around the nation and indeed, around the world, I believe there are echoes of the knowledge of this reflection. God has made us a little lower than the heavenly beings. God has crowned us with glory and honor.

Tejdor Tiewsoh is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Shillong, India.

(1) Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, “Jarawas Are Human Beings…Just Like Us,” Times of India, 15 January 2012.

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Surprised by Suffering – Ravi Zacharias

 

Gayle Williams was a 34 year-old foreign aid worker serving among the disabled in a country where humanitarian work is both needed and dangerous. Williams was killed as she walked to work, targeted by a militant group because they believed she was spreading Christianity.

Elsewhere, a young medical student at a prestigious university described in detail the hostility he confronts daily as a Christian. He spoke of students and friends who deride the possibility of possessing both faith and intellect, medical professors who actually apologize when the language of design inadvertently slips into lectures on the body, and the isolation that comes from trying to stand in the shadows of this increasingly antagonistic majority.

When confronted by the stories of those who live their faith among people who hate them for it, I am confounded, inspired, saddened, and thankful all at once. The death and murder of Gayle Williams startles those at ease in their faith to reflection. The pervasive opposition in the lives of believing university students awakens even seasoned believers to their own apathy. How courageous is the believer who follows Christ among those who hurl insults and hostility? How treasured is the Bible that must be buried in the backyard for protection? How sacred is the faith of one who is willing to die for it?

For those of us who live in far less hostile environments, news of persecution is foreign, frightening, and difficult to fathom. Their experiences bring the words of the early church to life in a way that many of us have never considered. When the apostle Paul wrote that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ—neither “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword”—he was referring to struggles that were dangerously real to him and the people to whom he was writing. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). Peter, too, encouraged believers in their troubling situations. He urged them to stand firm in their convictions regardless of their affliction; he reminded them that discomfort and suffering was a sacred part of following the wounded one. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

The apostles’ words do not take away the injustice of brutal murder. But they do assuage the shock of its occurrence. Jesus told his followers to expect persecution; in fact, he said they would be blessed by it. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). Peter’s words encourage the suffering not to see their painful trials as strange or out of the ordinary, but as something that further marks them as believers and unites them in even greater intimacy with their leader. Persecution may be always jarring, unfair, or lamentable, but it is not strange when it happens to those who follow Christ. Perhaps it is stranger when it is not happening.

Mark Twain once said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” For those of us who live the faith we profess without challenge, trial, or risk, reflection may well be appropriate. Is it possible that we have so shut ourselves up in Christian circles that we have closed ourselves off from the world and hence any chance of suffering for Christ? Is it possible that we are so at ease among the majority that we avoid venturing out as the minority among those who might hate or hurt us? Certainly we experience hostility and persecution indirectly. But how we are personally interacting with the angry, the lost, and the broken masses Jesus once wept over is another thing entirely. How effectively we live as “the salt of the earth” that Jesus described depends on our place and posture within it. Surely salt that remains content within the shaker has lost its saltiness.

The struggles of Christian students on university campuses, the sufferings of Christian aid workers across the world, and the daily trials of believers who live courageously in dangerous places are stories that frighten and sadden us.  They are also stories that depict what can happen when the salt of the kingdom is allowed to season the earth. Gayle Williams is said to have been the hand of Christ among some of the world’s most forgotten. “Remember the words I spoke to you,” said Jesus to his disciples. “‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). And then he was led away like a sheep to the slaughter.(1)

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Isaiah 53:7

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Resting in God’s Sovereignty – John MacArthur

 

God made known the mystery of His will “according to His kind intention which He purposed in [Christ] with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth” (Eph. 1:9-10).

For centuries men of various philosophical schools have debated the cause, course, and climax of human history. Some deny God and therefore deny any divine involvement in history. Others believe that God set everything in motion, then withdrew to let it progress on its own. Still others believe that God is intimately involved in the flow of human history and is directing its course toward a specific, predetermined climax.

In Ephesians 1:9-10 Paul settles that debate by reminding us that Jesus Himself is the goal of human history. In Him all things will be summed up–all human history will be resolved and united to the Father through the work of the Son.

As Paul said elsewhere, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness [of deity] to dwell in [Christ], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19-20). The culmination of Christ’s reconciling work will come during His millennial kingdom (Rev. 20). Following that, He will usher in the eternal state with a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21).

Despite the political uncertainty and military unrest in the world today, be assured that God is in control. He governs the world (Isa. 40:22-24), the nations (Isa. 40:15- 17), and individuals as well (Prov. 16:9). God’s timetable is right on schedule. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing thwarts His purposes. Ultimately He will vanquish evil and make everything right in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer:     Thank God for the wisdom and insight He gives you to see beyond your temporal circumstances to His eternal purposes.

Live today with that perspective in mind.

For Further Study: Read Revelation 20

What happens to Satan prior to the millennial kingdom?

How does Satan meet his final doom?

What happens at the great white throne judgment?

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Creaturely Gifts – Ravi Zacharias

 

At the very first “show and tell” of my kindergarten career, I was faced with a moment of decision. We were seated in a circle, one by one offering the class our name and our favorite color. Oddly, it seemed as though there was an unwritten rule emerging around that circle. All of the girls, without exception, were declaring unanimously that “pink” and/or “purple” was their favorite. I was new to the idea of classmates and wanted these people beside me to be my friends. But I didn’t like either of these colors. Getting more and more anxious with each passing declaration, I decided to tell the truth. “Orange and green,” I avowed incompatibly. My response was met with giggles from boys and girls alike. Yet somehow this embarrassing spectacle only sealed my affection for the obviously unloved, underdog colors.

So when I found the pitiable orange plastic day lilies in the tiny green velvet flowerpot, I knew I had to buy them. My five-year-old eyes saw the beauty in the rejected knickknack, lost on a table full of junk, bearing a tag marked twenty-five cents at a garage sale. When I got them home, I dusted off the crispy petals, proudly wrapped a ribbon around the pot, and presented the flowers triumphantly as a gift to my dad.

Twenty years later, cleaning out the belongings of my father after he had passed away, I found the unsightly plastic flora still perched upon his desk. Looking at the tacky flowers, covered again with dust, still bearing the small ribbon, I recalled the joy of finding the orange treasure, the excitement in handing over twenty-five cents to claim it as my own, and the hard decision I made to give it away. Brushing my fingers over the green velvet pot, I recalled the pleased expression on my dad’s face as he placed it on his desk and told me he would keep it there always. And then I remembered a detail in adulthood that the eyes of the child overlooked: The quarter that purchased these flowers was his own.

Christianity is often thought of as a set of principles that people struggle to follow, earning their way into God’s favor with self-denial and obedience. But this is looking at God as we might look at a gumball machine or a bank. We cannot earn our way to whatever prize we have our eye on—even if the prize we seek is God. The shiny quarters we proudly offer, belong, in fact, to God.

Indeed, in the Christian imagination every faculty we have—from our ability to think or move to our ability to praise or seek Father, Son, and Spirit—is given to us by God Himself. As the apostle Paul declared among the idols of Mars Hill, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24-25). We are embedded in God’s creation; we are creatures within it. We cannot escape our creaturely vocation or our creaturely end. Everything we do is fixed within this drama of creation.

As such, we cannot possibly earn our way into God’s presence, for we cannot give the maker of heaven and earth anything that is not in a sense already God’s own. “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” The tattered gifts of faith and obedience we offer were purchased with God’s own flesh and blood. As hymnist Stuart Townend has written:

How deep the Father’s love for us,

how vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

to make a wretch His treasure!

How great the pain of searing loss;

the Father turns His face away,

As wounds which mar the Chosen One

bring many sons to glory.

At the time, the thought didn’t strike me at all: I borrowed a quarter from my dad to by him a present. Technically, he bought himself an ugly dust-collector. But it was nonetheless a five year-old’s sacrifice of love, and one he held onto all his life. How much more so God the Father treasures his children’s sacrifice of praise.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Be a Hero – Greg Laurie

 

Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation —Hebrews 11:2

We throw the word “hero” around a lot today. If a basketball player is adept at sinking the ball in the basket, we say that he or she is a sports hero. A musician who is really good on a guitar is called a guitar hero. But do we actually know what a hero is anymore?

I think we are living in a time in which we are more obsessed with celebrities and have fewer heroes. In the age of Paris Hilton and the Kardashians, we have people who are famous for being famous.

Someone who compared celebrity with true heroism said that time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities. Well said.

Then there are the unsung heroes, those who often work behind the scenes but don’t get the credit. Sometimes we don’t even know that person is a hero until much later. Perhaps they made an unpopular stand or did something that was not politically correct or simply did the right thing. And with the passing of time, we realize they were right.

In the Bible, we find a lot of unsung heroes. We think of Moses and Joshua as heroes, but what about Caleb? Along with Joshua, he endured the ridicule of the Israelites when they told the people they should enter the Promised Land. But in the end, it was Caleb who said, “Give me the hill country that the Lord promised me” (Joshua 14:12), and then he took possession of his inheritance.

Andrew originally followed John the Baptist, who pointed him to Christ. And when Andrew found Jesus, the first thing he did was find his brother Peter and tell him. In fact, every time we read about Andrew in the Bible, he is bringing someone to Jesus.

You can stand as an example of what it is to be a true believer. You may never be famous, but you can be a hero to others as you faithfully walk with Christ.

A reminder about America – Bro Bo in Hawaii

– a small history lesson
Talk about the United States today and bring up Christianity and the first thing that pops up is The Separation of Church and State. Do you believe this is truly what was intended by the people that wrote the Constitution?  Maybe, only for the Fact that they did not want a powerful “Church of England” in charge of the New Country.  Their plan was to leave the idea of churches for the people, with the people. The people of each State would decide what church is best for them. The federal government would have no control in this area.

That was the plan, but plans can change and The State Governments today all dance from the money strings attached to the Federal Government rules. It is not for me to call out or say what is right or wrong in the Government today. I am just one person, all I can do is ask you to think for yourself and trust God, not government.

You can make up your own mind as to what the Government is doing and not doing, how much control they have over your life. Then think about how much, if any; is God part of what the Government is doing. You can decide to follow what God teaches you in the Bible and grow and learn to be the Person God hopes you will be.

Take the time to ask questions and seek answers. Start with…Who do you trust with your Life?

Proverbs 1:7 KJ21 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Psalm 127:1 KJ21 Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Proverbs 8:10 KJ21 Receive my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold;

2 Corinthians 4:6 KJ21 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:7 KJ21 But what things were gain to me, those I counted as loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but dung, that I may win Christ

Remember to be Wise men who know the times and to know where the Wisdom comes from…God.

Peace be to you all from Bro Bo in Hawaii

– Life is a long journey but we all end up before the same God in Heaven, What will He say to you?

The Best Intentions – Ravi Zacharias Ministries

 

How far can we get on good intentions? According to one survey conducted among a diverse group of men and women, thirty percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions admit not keeping them into February. Just one in five continues his or her resolution for six months or more. Apparently, we don’t get very far.

We meet life with intentions to succeed, intentions to be a good person, intentions to live life to the fullest. Yet however many ways we might interpret success, goodness, or full-living, our good intentions have certain aspects in common: the hope to improve, the idea of becoming something more than what we are at the moment, the expectation that one should reach his or her potential. It is as if there is an image implanted in our minds that upholds the idea of something we could be or might be—some even use the language of even being meant to be. But there is all too often a tragic side to best intentions. When they are not fully realized, there is usually a sense that it is we who have gotten in the way.

Great minds from Augustine to G.K. Chesterton saw clearly that the most verifiable truth of the Christian worldview is certainly the depravity of humanity. It can be observed across countries and languages, at any time and within every decade, from barbaric accounts of depravity in far away places to more accepted forms of depravity close at home. We close our eyes to reality where we refuse to see the same story repeating itself again and again. We might euphemize the thought of sin into neurotic myth, outdated opinion, or church propaganda, but it has not been euthanized. Observe for a short time at any playground and you will note quickly amongst even the youngest that something is amiss. If we were to truly observe our hearts, motives, and wills, we would hardly find them good and consistent leaders to follow.

The Christian worldview recognizes the recurring story of a disappointed and disappointing humanity. Not only do we miss our own intentions, we miss the intention of one we faintly recognize within us; we sense in our createdness the greater mark and glory of the creator disappointingly out of reach. The one who spoke to the dejected Eve in the Garden of Eden and to the defiant David through the prophet Nathan is the present one beside whom we, too, stand in contrast. We can step no closer to that standard by our own intentions than a foolish king can order the stars to bow before him. To look at the Son is to find that even our best intentions are made of straw.

Yet looking at Christ, we not only see our humanity beside a perfect human, we find this perfect human moving toward us in mercy, giving us a bigger picture of the good and the fullest, and ushering us into the possibility of holding more than we ever imagined. Where we are honest about our limits and shortfalls, we can truly grasp the beauty of Jesus and the unimaginable depth of a Father’s love. It is in Christ where we find that God moves the blur of sin to give us the picture of all God intended. And here, we find the Christian worldview not only coherently offers the diagnosis, but also the cure.

The late Christian songwriter Rich Mullins alluded to the bigger pictures of God when he observed of his own life: “What I’d have settled for/ You’ve blown so far away/ What You brought me to/ I thought I could not reach.” In the intentions of God, we find that where we would have settled, where we would have been content with success or goodness, the Father moves us far beyond. Where we would have fallen beyond reach, the Son took our place. “God who is mighty,” proclaims the psalmist, “has done great things for me.” In the coming of this New Year, might we recognize a similar story in our own lives.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wise men who knew the times – Bro Bo in Hawaii

 

1 Chronicles 12:32 (KJ21)  And of the children of Issachar, who were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command.

Esther 1:13 (KJ21) Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for so was the king’s manner toward all who knew law and judgment;

These Scriptures give notice to the fact that the people being talked about knew what was going on around them. They were not deceived by popular current news stories or mislead by gossip and rumor that is present at all times in history.

Wouldn’t you like to be known as one of these? Trusted men who understand their times.

What this really means is that we need to know what is going on around us, just like in King David’s time or with Esther, there will be confusing and misleading news and information. There will always be bad news, false reports and people’s opinions. So the question becomes can you tell the difference between the truth and the lies?

This will be what sets you apart to become one of the Trusted Men, One who can cut through all the crap and give good answers and advice. More than ever there are so many lost and desperate people in this world looking for answers. Family, friends and neighbors all around you need to hear the truth.

Whatever method works best for you, use it. Look at where you get your news and information from and always question the sources. Challenge what you see and hear and compare everything to the Word of God and use the Bible to establish the cornerstones of your faith.

Find reliable sources of Biblical based information on the Internet and visit the sites daily.

Pray and ask for Wisdom and use what you learn every day to grow into the person God wants you to be.

Peace be to you all from Bro Bo in Hawaii

– Life is a long journey but we all end up before the same God in Heaven, What will He say to you?

Resolution and Mission – Ravi Zacharias Ministries

 

“Make a New Year’s resolution to give up an old habit,” proclaims a billboard put up by a fledgling newspaper trying to woo away readers from a more established paper. This is the time of the year when the very word “resolution” catches our attention, and the advertisement was cashing in on the sentiment.

Resolutions clearly vary in depth of meaning. You can have a new resolution every new year if you would like. Most resolutions are short-term and can therefore be more easily evaluated than overarching values or life purposes. But even if one is successful every year in keeping a resolution, does that mean that one can, towards the twilight years of one’s life, say one has lived successfully? I’m not sure we would go as far as to say this.

In the early chapters of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus shows far more than resolution to live a particular life. Overwhelmed with the pressures of popularity to the extent that “the whole city gathered at the door,” Jesus did two things (Mark 1:33). In response to the people before him, he first met all of their needs. He healed their diseases and cast out their demons. But then, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place to pray.

Immediately upon finding him, his disciples gave him what seems like an exaggerated report: “Everyone is looking for you!” they exclaimed (1:37). Gently and confidently, Jesus set the course, telling them his plans on fulfilling his mission. “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for” (1:38). Popularity did not distract him. The demands of the crowds did not prevent him from focusing on what he needed to do. Jesus knew his mission in life, and every action worked toward this end.

Everyone in this world has some form of a mission statement, though often it is not formally stated. Many have implicit mission statements to make money or to become powerful or to be successful or to optimize pleasure. Though many of our goals or resolutions are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, they become empty when elevated beyond what the accomplishment itself can provide. Success in the stock market does not make for a successful life. There is a vast difference between a resolution and a mission statement. We were meant for far more than any accomplishment of our own can provide.

If you look in the mirror of God’s Word, you will find that God not only has a plan for life itself, but a plan for your life. John reports, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12). Jesus gives us the only mission statement that extends beyond this life and into the next.

A clearly expressed mission statement may go against the grain of our natural inclinations and thinking. But having a clear purpose in mind helps to expose our unvoiced, inadequate mission statements and verbalize the larger existential purpose of life and the direction God has set before us. We may sometimes struggle to remain on track, but we walk not alone. As someone has said, “There is joy in the journey.” And I might add, for the follower of Christ, there is also a sense of fulfillment at the journey’s end.

Why not take the time this year to articulate a mission statement for your life? This could well be the resolution that leads to the one who revolutionizes all of life.

Cyril Georgeson is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Delhi, India.

Prayer for a Future Me – Ravi Zacharias

 

While thoughts and resolutions for the year ahead are crossing many of our minds, Matt Sly and Jay Patrikios are still thinking 30 years into the future. Sly and Patrikios are the minds behind the 2002 website “Future Me” that allows people to send messages to themselves years or decades from the time they were written. In the year 2015, a man named Adam is set to get an e-mail from himself that asks, “Do you still write? Do you still draw? Does Radio Shack still exist?” Sly explains the rationale: “We want people to think about their future and what their goals and dreams and hopes and fears are. We’re trying to facilitate some serious existential pondering.”(1)

A quick overview of some of the publicly-posted messages shows people doing just that. Some are pondering dreams they hope to have accomplished by the time they hear from themselves in the future: “I hope you are moving up in your job… I also hope you are making more responsible choices.” Others are taking it as a moment to remind themselves what they were up to years earlier or record what they hope will be beyond them in the future: “I hope you’re better because as I’m writing this letter, you’re doing terrible.” It is a time capsule wrought in an e-mail, readily drawing in participants all over the world. At the very least, it extracts in many a sense of intrigue. At most, sending words to future selves seems to draw a sense of nostalgia, accountability, apprehension, or hope.

I used to keep a journal that mostly held thoughts and events consumed with present days. I seemed most prone to write in it when something was happening or had just happened, when something was on my mind or on my heart at present. But there is one page far in the back that differentiated from the others. In scattered sentences now crammed on a page full of thoughts I speak to days far ahead of me: “Remember that you wanted to be the kind of woman that grows old gracefully.” “If you ever become a parent, I hope you will be the kind who can say ‘I’m sorry.’” “When it’s time to let go of certain freedoms, take it with poise.” “If it’s ever your turn to face disease, remember that you wanted to do it with faith; you wanted death never to scare you more than resurrection gives you hope.” While I like to think of these mental notes as prayers for the future—and many of them are—many of them more closely resemble a listing of fears, an anxious warning at what I might forget or what might go wrong. Though I am looking ahead, it is as if I am still looking behind me.

In an essay titled “Please Shut This Gate” English author F.W. Boreham describes signs carefully placed by landowners throughout the landscape of New Zealand. “Please shut this gate,” was a message one could read often throughout his countryside, signs placed by fence owners intent on keeping some things from wandering away and some things from wandering in. Depicting this common scene, Boreham then draws a parallel to the importance of shutting similar gates in our own lives, closing the door that keeps things both in and out. He writes, “[W]hen Israel escaped from Babylon, and dreaded a similar attack from behind, the voice divine again reassured them. ‘I, the Lord thy God, will be thy rearguard’ (Isaiah 58:8). There are thousands of things behind me of which I have good reason to be afraid; but it is the glory of the Christian evangel that all the gates may be closed. It is grand to be able to walk in green pastures and beside still waters unafraid of anything that I have left in the perilous fields behind me.”(2)

Whether looking down roads to the New Year or the coming decades, it is the gift of the follower of Jesus that there are gates that may be closed. We need not worry about the future, nor look to resolutions or future me’s with fear of failing, nor tremble at what Christ has put behind us—or in front of us. In the words of a seventeenth century Puritan: “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us we have power of ourselves to do is to make the Cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.”(3) Christ has written a message across the future to be delivered to our laboring souls each new day. As he went head first into the shadows of self-giving, he cried, “It is finished,” forever offering a door to shut, forever promising the strength to shut it. In this New Year, one can say in hope and in light: Christ has gone before us, he walks among us, he is our rearguard, he is our strength.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Matt Sly and Jay Patrikios, Futureme.org.

(2) F.W. Boreham, “Please Shut This Gate,” The Silver Shadow (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1919), 118-119.

(3) John Owen, Works of John Owen: Volume 3 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1862), 433.

Overcoming Life’s Ups and Downs – Charles Stanley

 

Philippians 4:10-13

Have you ever heard a testimony from someone who has been through a horrible tragedy? We tend to pay very close attention to such accounts because the person involved has witnessed firsthand God’s faithfulness and power to restore a broken life.

Of all the witnesses to God’s grace in times of trouble, none is more compelling than the apostle Paul. He was certainly no stranger to hardship. Throughout his ministry, he was chased, beaten, stoned, arrested, shipwrecked, and accused of heresy by both the Jewish leaders and the Roman government. This was certainly a stark contrast to his early life, in which he enjoyed the luxuries and opportunities that his Roman citizenship and Jewish education provided.

There were amazing ups and downs in Paul’s life. As a result, he earned the right to make the proclamation found in Philippians 4:12: “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity.”

And what was the lesson the apostle came away with as a result of these experiences? He tells us in verse 12: “In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

Paul’s “secret” is really not a secret al all, for he reveals the source of his strength in the following verse: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Faith in Jesus Christ and an increasing reliance on Him will make this limitless power source a reality in your life.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” / Isaiah 49:8

Jesus Christ is himself the sum and substance of the covenant, and as one of

its gifts. He is the property of every believer. Believer, canst thou estimate

what thou hast gotten in Christ? “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the

Godhead bodily.” Consider that word “God” and its infinity, and then meditate

upon “perfect man” and all his beauty; for all that Christ, as God and man,

ever had, or can have, is thine–out of pure free favour, passed over to thee

to be thine entailed property forever. Our blessed Jesus, as God, is

omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Will it not console you to know that all

these great and glorious attributes are altogether yours? Has he power? That

power is yours to support and strengthen you, to overcome your enemies, and to

preserve you even to the end. Has he love? Well, there is not a drop of love

in his heart which is not yours; you may dive into the immense ocean of his

love, and you may say of it all, “It is mine.” Hath he justice? It may seem a

stern attribute, but even that is yours, for he will by his justice see to it

that all which is promised to you in the covenant of grace shall be most

certainly secured to you. And all that he has as perfect man is yours. As a

perfect man the Father’s delight was upon him. He stood accepted by the Most

High. O believer, God’s acceptance of Christ is thine acceptance; for knowest

thou not that the love which the Father set on a perfect Christ, he sets on

thee now? For all that Christ did is thine. That perfect righteousness which

Jesus wrought out, when through his stainless life he kept the law and made it

honourable, is thine, and is imputed to thee. Christ is in the covenant.

“My God, I am thine–what a comfort divine!

What a blessing to know that the Saviour is mine!

In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am,

And my heart it doth dance at the sound of his name.”

 

Evening   “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.” / Luke 3:4

The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the Lord, a way

prepared, and a way prepared in the wilderness. I would be attentive to the

Master’s proclamation, and give him a road into my heart, cast up by gracious

operations, through the desert of my nature. The four directions in the text

must have my serious attention.

Every valley must be exalted. Low and grovelling thoughts of God must be given

up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal

delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a glorious causeway of

grace must be raised.

Every mountain and hill shall be laid low. Proud creature-sufficiency, and

boastful self-righteousness, must be levelled, to make a highway for the King

of kings. Divine fellowship is never vouchsafed to haughty, highminded

sinners. The Lord hath respect unto the lowly, and visits the contrite in

heart, but the lofty are an abomination unto him. My soul, beseech the Holy

Spirit to set thee right in this respect.

The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight

path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are

strangers to the God of truth. My soul, take heed that thou be in all things

honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.

The rough places shall be made smooth. Stumbling-blocks of sin must be

removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a

visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when he comes to honour his

favoured ones with his company. Oh that this evening the Lord may find in my

heart a highway made ready by his grace, that he may make a triumphal progress

through the utmost bounds of my soul, from the beginning of this year even to

the end of it.

Missing the Point – Greg Laurie

 

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. —1 Timothy 1:12–13

Saul, who later became the apostle Paul, had a ravenous hunger for knowledge and wanted to be as devout as possible. As a Pharisee, he worked his way up the ranks and became a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, which was like the Supreme Court of that day. With this honor, he would have enjoyed great fame and influence.

However, it could be said that Saul was both famous and, ultimately, infamous. He felt that the followers of the Nazarene known as Jesus were dangerous. He thought they needed to be wiped off the face of the earth. So he made it his mission in life to hunt them down. But he didn’t stop with the Christians who were in his area or jurisdiction. He got extradition papers from the high priest and actually set out for Damascus, which was 140 miles from Jerusalem.

Although it was an arduous and difficult journey, Saul was so filled with hatred that he would go anywhere to find Christians and stop them. He later wrote that he did this ignorantly in unbelief (see 1 Timothy 1:13).

It is hard to understand how a religious person can also be a hateful person. But sometimes people who claim to be devout can be very mean and actually use their religion as a means to destroy. That certainly was a description of Saul.

It can be very frustrating to have to deal with fellow Christians who try to undermine us or hinder us sometimes. But as Vance Havner pointed out, “If we are too busy using our sickles on one another, we’re going to miss the harvest.”

When we are so busy with infighting and arguing over minor points, we can miss the big picture of a lost world that needs to hear the gospel.

Obeying God – Charles Stanley

 

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Peter was a professional fisherman. He knew how to read weather conditions, where to find the best places to fish, and when to end an unproductive session. Because of his expertise, he may have silently questioned the reasonableness of Jesus’ instruction. Why let down the nets when an experienced team of fishermen hadn’t caught anything all night?

At times God asks His children to act in ways that may not seem logical. His request might involve leaving a job or ministry that He provided only recently, taking on more responsibility when life already feels overloaded, or accepting an assignment that appears better suited for someone with a different skill set. Perhaps God’s plan makes no sense in view of age, finances, or health. Yet, because of the One who asks, it will be the absolutely right thing to do. We must decide whether to do what is sensible by human standards or to obey God.

The Bible talks about many people who had to make such a choice. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. Noah was told to build an ark on dry land because a flood was coming. Joshua was given a military strategy of marching around Jericho instead of attacking it. Gideon, the inexperienced fighter, was told to send most of his warriors home before the battle (Judges 7:2-3).

Don’t make the mistake of allowing human logic to dictate whether you follow God’s plan. Trust in Him as Peter and those other faithful believers did. When they chose to obey what the Lord was saying, they all experienced divine power released on their behalf.

Nativity Scenes – Ravi Zacharias

 

I have always insisted that my position on December birthdays is that its proprietors are easily neglected. (As a kid, I thought it was a clever way of inspiring sympathy and presents.) We are over-shadowed by Christmas decorations in November and over-looked in December by relatives busy with Christmas errands and office parties. And yet, I have always secretly loved it. On the day I was born, the world was awake, decking the halls, and a great number of them were looking to the birth of another infant. The spirit of Christmas seems a part of my own, the birth of Christ a part of my identity, reminding me each year that I too was born, that I was fragile, that I was held. For those born in December (and for any who remember their own beginnings in the scenes of Advent), the season offers a time of contemplating infantile beginnings, a lesson in what it means to be human, like no other. Stories and celebrations of one’s birth are juxtaposed with a nativity story told long before we were born and one that will continue to be told long after us.

In fact the story of Christianity is a story filled with nativity scenes. In these stories, we are told of a God who is present before we have accomplished anything and longing to gather us long before we know it. Thus David can pray, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” And God can say to the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” And those who witnessed the miracle of Elizabeth and Zechariah can rightly exclaim God’s hand upon the child before that child could say his own name: “The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him.”(1)

In a world where significance and identity are earned by what we do, by what we have accomplished, by what we own, and Christmas is about the lines we fought, the lists we finished, the gifts we were able to secure, the kingdom of God arrives scandalously, jarringly—even offensively—into our captive and often content lives. In this kingdom, a person’s value begins before she has said or done the right things, before he has accumulated the right lifestyle, or even thought to make the right lists. In this kingdom, God not only uses children in the story of salvation, not only calls us to embrace the kingdom as little children, but so the very God of creation steps into the world as a child.

Children are not usually the main characters in the stories we tell, yet the story of Christmas begins and ends with a child most don’t quite know what to do with. Here, a vulnerable baby in a stable of animals breaks in as the harbinger of good news, the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets, the anointed leader who comes to set the captives free—wrapped in rags and resting in a manger. Coming as a child, God radically draws near, while at the same time radically overthrowing our conceptions of status, worth, power, and authority. Jesus is crowned king long before he can sit in a throne. He begins overturning idols and upsetting social order long before he can even speak.

If truth be told, perhaps I feel a certain delight in celebrating births and birthdays at Christmastime because it is the season in which it is most appropriate—and most hopeful—to remember our fragility, our dependency, and the great reversal of the kingdom of God: For God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.(2) Advent, like childhood, reminds us that we are in need of someone to hold us. It also reminds us that, like the baby in a Bethlehem stable, we too are somewhat out of place, longing for home in the midst of it. The image of a tearful baby in a manager is a picture of God in his most shocking, unbefitting state—the Most High becoming the lowest, the face of God wrapped tightly in a young girl’s arms.

How true that to be human is to be implicitly religious, for even within our most deeply felt needs for love and refuge, we are reminded that there is one who comes so very far to meet us. Inherent in our most vulnerable days, whoever we are, is the hope that God, too, took on the despairing quality of fragility in order to offer the hope of wholeness. In our most weakened states of despair and shortcoming, Christ breaks in and shows the paradoxical power of God in an unlikely nativity scene. Glory to God in the lowest, indeed.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) cf. Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:65-66.

(2) 1 Corinthians 1:27.

The Twelve Days of Christmas – Ravi Zacharias

 

The floor contains the remnants of torn wrappings, boxes, and bows. The stockings hang lifeless from the mantel, empty of all their contents. Leftovers are all that are left of holiday feasting. Wallets are empty and feelings of buyer’s remorse begin to descend and suffocate. On the morning after Christmas, thus begins the season of let down.

It’s not a surprise really. For many in the West, the entire focus of the Christmas season is on gift-giving, holiday parties, and family gatherings, all of which are fine in and of themselves. But these things often become the centerpiece of the season. Marketers and advertisers ensure that this is so and prime the buying-pump with ads and sales for Christmas shopping long before December. Once November ends, the rush for consumers is on, and multitudinous festivities lead to a near fever pitch. And then, very suddenly, it is all over.

In an ironic twist of history, Christmas day became the end point, the full stop of the Christmas season. But in the ancient Christian tradition, Christmas day was only the beginning of the Christmas season. The oft-sung carol The Twelve Days of Christmas was not simply a song sung, but a lived reality of the Christmas celebration.(1) In the traditional celebrations, the somber anticipation of Advent—waiting for God to act—flowed into the celebration of the Incarnation that began on Christmas day and culminated on “twelfth night”—the Feast of Epiphany.

For twelve days following Christmas, Christians celebrated the “Word made flesh” dwelling among them. The ancient feasts that followed Christmas day all focused on the mystery of the Incarnation worked out in the life of the believers. Martyrs, evangelists, and ordinary people living out the call of faith are all celebrated during these twelve days.

Far from being simply an alternative to the way in which Christmas is currently celebrated or an antidote to post-Christmas ‘let down,’ understanding the early history and traditions of Christian celebrations can reunite the world with the true focal point of the Christmas season. ”The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory…and of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:14-16). Far more than giving gifts or holiday feasts, the joy of Christmas is that God came near to us in Jesus Christ. The Incarnation affirms that matter matters as God descends to us and adopts a dwelling made of human flesh. Far from a let down, we have the opportunity to be lifted up and united to God through Jesus Christ.

A simple poem by Madeline Morse captures the calling of the twelve days of Christmas:

Let Christmas not become a thing

Merely of merchant’s trafficking,

Of tinsel, bell, and holly wreath

And surface pleasure, but beneath

The childish glamour, let us find

Nourishment for heart and mind.

Let us follow kinder ways

Through our teeming human maze,

And help the age of peace to come.(2)

Living out the mystery of the Incarnation is a daily celebration.  The celebration began on Christmas Day.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait, “The Real Twelve Days of Christmas,” Christianity Today, August 8, 2008.

(2) Madeline Morse from the compiled readings by Rebecca Currington, Remember the Reason: Focusing on Christ at Christmas (Honor Books: Colorado Springs, CO, 2007), 7.

Into the World as We Know It – Ravi Zacharias

 

Garrison Keillor’s description of Aunt Marie is one I have not been able to shake this season. Repeatedly, she has come to mind in discordant moments of Christmas preparation, somewhere between errands at the mall and lyrics that put a stop to them. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,/ Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” No description of the Incarnation more readily makes the common stressors of Christmas seem less important. And yet, Aunt Marie, with her “fat little legs” and “her heavy, fur-collared coat,” has made a serious attempt to wrestle me back down to a sad, human, earthly reality. Keillor writes:

“She knew that death was only a door to the kingdom where Jesus would welcome her, there would be no crying there, no suffering, but meanwhile she was fat, her heart hurt, and she lived alone with her ill-tempered little dogs, tottering around her dark little house full of Chinese figurines and old Sunday Tribunes. She complained about nobody loving her or wanting her or inviting her to their house for dinner anymore. She sat eating pork roast, mashed potato, creamed asparagus, one Sunday at our house when she said it. We were talking about a trip to the North Shore and suddenly she broke into tears and cried, ‘You don’t care about me. You say you do but you don’t. If I died tomorrow, I don’t know as you’d even go to my funeral.’ I was six. I said, cheerfully, ‘I’d come to your funeral,’ looking at my fat aunt, her blue dress, her string of pearls, her red rouge, the powder on her nose, her mouth full of pork roast, her eyes full of tears.”(1)

Christmas has reminded us what many of us already know: that the world is waiting, groaning for more, longing for redemption, for peace on earth and goodwill to humanity, for release from darkness and sin and loneliness and disillusionment, for God to come near to the world as we know it. Like Aunt Marie, this waiting is sometimes fraught with discomfort; we wait, and we sense a lonely, earthly reality. But Advent forces the experience of waiting into a different light. Our waiting need not be dehumanizing, dispiriting, as waiting often feels.

The New Testament describes it quite differently—not as a difficult means to a better end, but as part of the promise itself. Eugene Peterson writes, “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”(2) Waiting itself is, of course, a reminder that we are earthbound.

But so is Christ.

The Christian’s celebration of Christmas is the assurance that we wait with good reason. “The word became flesh,” wrote John, “and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God did not merely come near, he became flesh that could touch weaknesses, experience loneliness, and encounter the lowest moments of being human. He came to be with us, to move through us, to work within us. He came as small and vulnerable as humans come, getting close enough to bear the scars of our outrage and near enough to prove he would stay regardless. He came far nearer than Aunt Marie—or most of us—are yet able to recognize. “That is what incarnation means,” writes Frederick Buechner. “It is untheological. It is unsophisticated. It is undignified. But according to Christianity, it is the way things are. All religions and philosophies that deny the reality or the significance of the material, the fleshly, the earthbound, are themselves denied.”(3)

God became one of us, not to erase every shadow or to undo the difficulties of humanity, but to be with us in the midst of it, to transform our spectrum of darkness by bearing a truer depth of light, and to enlarge us with the joy of expectancy until the fullness of time when every hope has come to pass.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home (New York: Viking, 1987), xxi-xxii.

(2) Eugene Peterson, The Message, Romans 8:24-25.

(3) Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), 169.