Thursday, 30 December 2010

humbling humility

The official holiday of Christmas has officially passed. The 25th of December has come and gone, again. The decorations are being put away, one by one. The leftover sweets of the season are being eaten, one by one. The lights are going out, one by one. Sorry folks, no more jolly tunes or rockin' around the tree until next winter. If you missed your chance under the mistletoe, I'm afraid you have about fifty weeks to wait. Farewell Frosty the Snowman and adios Santa Claus. Poinsettias, it was nice seeing you all, but have a good break. Cadbury Chocolate, you have delighted our taste-buds once again, but please, I beg you, leave us alone while we make our New Year's resolutions to not eat you after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The happy holiday high is over for many. The glitz n glam is gone. Hey, it was fun while it lasted. Right? Now, it's back to work/back to school. Those rosy cheeks have paled. That sparkle in your eye has disappeared. Those cheery spirits have dropped... low. The shops have successfully sucked you in and spat you out, and now you're just waiting for a New Year's drink, or two, or three.

Regardless of how one may feel at this present time, there is hope. Very real and certain hope. His name is Jesus Christ. Christmas comes every year to remind us about how He came, and why He came into this world. And this ain't just a nice story, folks. Neither is it a tall tale or a Christmas carol. It is the truth. The most humbling and hopeful truth of all time/for all time.

The how is humbling.
"Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave, and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross." {Philippians}

In other words, God left His golden throne for a wooden manger. He left the constant praise of angels for the cries of cattle in a crowded barn. Later on, that wood made a cruel cross on which He hung for hours, and those cries in the barn became cries on a hill called Calvary, mocking cries from proud people, jeering at the humble Messiah. From adored king, to suffering servant. From Creator, to Saviour.

The why is hope.
"And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." {Matthew 1:21}

"When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." {Romans)

"He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." {Isaiah 53:5}

In other words, Jesus Messiah came to die, so that we might live. He conquered death, so that we might live. He was wounded, so that we might be healed (of the disease of our sin). He paid the debt and printed the receipt that God's justice demanded. Through our humble repentance and trust in His perfect sacrifice on our behalf, a holy God becomes a faithful Father. In a sentence, He came to rescue us from our sin and restore us to a relationship with the great God of the universe.

Humble yourself, because He humbled Himself. Then, and only then, will you have joy and peace that will last you all year-round.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

a wet, wild wonder

I've always loved rain, but now I love it even more after reading this.

The Great Work of God: Rain
A Thanksgiving Meditation

November 19, 1998 | by John Piper

"But as for me, I would seek God, And I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, Wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth, And sends water on the fields." {Job 5:8-10}

If you said to someone: "My God does great and unsearchable things; He does wonders without number," and they responded, "Really? Like what?" would you say, "Rain"?

When I read these verses recently I felt like I did when I heard the lyrics to a Sonny and Cher song in 1969: "I'd live for you. I'd die for you. I'd even climb the mountain high for you." Even? I would die for you. I would even climb a high mountain for you? The song was good for a joke. Or a good illustration of bad poetry. Not much else.

But Job is not joking. "God does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number." He gives rain on the earth." In Job's mind, rain really is one of the great, unsearchable wonders that God does. So when I read this a few weeks ago, I resolved not to treat it as meaningless pop musical lyrics. I decided to have a conversation with myself (= meditation).

Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come on the fields from another source. From where?

Well, the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea, over several hundred miles and then be poured out from the sky onto the fields. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 27,878,400 cubic feet of water, which is 206,300,160 gallons, which is 1,650,501,280 pounds of water.

That's heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it's so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? That's a nice word. What's it mean? It means that the water sort of stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What's that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles between .00001 and .0001 centimeters wide. That's small.

What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So the sky picks up a billion pounds of water from the sea and takes out the salt and then carries it for three hundred miles and then dumps it on the farm?

Well it doesn't dump it. If it dumped a billion pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the billion pounds water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.

How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh a billion pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that's the way to ask the question)? Well, it's called coalescence. What's that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger. And when they are big enough, they fall. Just like that? Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up, if there were no electric field present. What? Never mind. Take my word for it.

I think, instead, I will just take Job's word for it. I still don't see why drops ever get to the ground, because if they start falling as soon as they are heavier than air, they would be too small not to evaporate on the way down, but if they wait to come down, what holds them up till they are big enough not to evaporate? Yes, I am sure there is a name for that too. But I am satisfied now that, by any name, this is a great and unsearchable thing that God has done. I think I should be thankful - lots more thankful than I am.

Grateful to God for the wonder of rain,

Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God.