Christian Life Helps - December

The Illusion of Control

“You’re not the boss of me!”  If you have younger siblings, you have probably had these words thrown in your direction at some time.  As a child with a little brother or sister, you had the illusion of control.
How much control do we really have in our own lives?  The paradox of having free will and yet knowing God is in control has always been discussed and debated.  I believe the best explanation is the simplest:  God is in control, but not controlling.
We laugh at ourselves for being control freaks.  Most of the time, hopefully, we don’t really cause harm!  But let’s see what happens when the desire for control goes to the extreme.  For example, the Pharisees.  They were the picture of control on steroids, having a demanding list of rules of what the church had to do to get it right, they used those rules to dominate.  Then along came Jesus who called them snakes and hypocrites.  The characteristics of their control – and of anyone who pushes it to the point of harming others – are pride, fear, pain rage and emptiness.  God in control has none of those characteristics.  He controls with mercy and goodness.
When we consider the sovereignty of God as described in the following scriptures, it seems foolish indeed to believe we are in control.’
Daniel 2:21   He changes the times and the seasons.
1 Chronicles 29:11   Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You.
Job 23:13   But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back?

When we accept the love of God through Jesus Christ, we have no desire to dominate or control others and we understand how very limited our ability to control our own lives.  Our control is an illusion.  God’s control is life’s blessing.
Yours in Christ,
Trudy Gamble

December 6, 2017

Keeping Christ in Christmas

The tones of most of prophecies in the Bible do not sound pleasant and they are rather strong and harsh. God has promised blessings if we would listen to what he has commanded to us, but has also warned us to destroy us if we are not obedient to Him.

However, we often think God’s blessings are too distant even though we follow God’s commandments and obey God’s words. In our real world, our situations are all different, but we all have problems and struggles that could hinder realizing near blessings.
The lives and stories of the people in the Bible are real and true. Even though they lived in different eras, and even though they did not have advanced transportation and technical devices that we have now, they had the same problems and struggles with which we are dealing now. 

Jacob who became a father of 12 tribes of the Israelites had to labor for 14 years at his uncle’s house. Joseph who became Egypt’s prime minister spent 13 years as a slave in Potiphars house and in prison. David who became a King was fleeing from King Saul for 15 years. Job lost everything he had and everybody close to him left. Daniel who was ever faithful to God was thrown into Lion’s den. The list can continue on.

If the stories end like that, it is quite discouraging. Some might protest to God why we would have to go through those difficulties. God wants to show us His love and grace through those real people’s stories. Importantly, God shows His abundant grace when we repent for ourselves and our people.
According to Job 42:5-6- I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. According to Daniel 9:20: While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God.

When Jesus started his ministries, the first words he delivered publicly were “repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matthew 4:17).” One of the most important messages that John the Baptist proclaimed in his ministry was also “repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matthew 3:2)”
There are more Bible verses that remind us to repent. 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal thier land.1 John 1:8-9 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

As we anticipate the arrival of our promised Christ, our broken hearts can be prepared and healed through repenting. “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statues and be careful to observe my ordinances. – Ezekiel 36:26.” As we experience our God through repenting, we will be renewed and able to receive the heart of flesh that our promised Christ provides.

Henri Nouwen’s quote might encourage us for our Advent journeys: “our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken with Jesus as our friend and guide.” Lastly, the following hymn lyric often reminds us of our Christ as “Emmanuel”:  Be still my soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change God faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Seung-Won Cho,
Director of Traditional Music Ministries at FUMC Lubbock