Monthly Archives: September 2010

THE COMPANY HE KEEPS

(Writer’s note: My thoughts these days are foused in the direction of The Nativity, The Incarnation, the entrance of the Lord Christ into human history.  I hope you will participate in the study, and share your own ideas. What is there about this event which has caught and kept the world’s attention for 20 centuries?  ~dk)

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’

‘Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’

″How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

″I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. LUKE 1:26-38

Jesus was called a “friend of publicans and sinners.”   And we’re told that the “common people heard Him gladly.

He was one of them.  He is one of us.

As I’ve reflected once again on the beautiful narratives of the Birth of Christ, I’ve wondered about the people who were “cast” in such an important  drama.  Why do you suppose God chose Mary?  Or Joseph? What kind of “background search” or audition would be conducted to find a suitable person for such an important role as hers?  Even though Joseph’s part was sort of in a “supporting” role, he must have been the right man for the job.  It is obvious that wealth was not a criterion for any of the positions.  Mary was very poor.  Simple.  Unsophisticated.  Probably unknown, by anyone outside her family, her neighborhood.  Going by customs which existed at that time and in those places, she was probably much too young to even obtain a ‘learner’s permit!”  Overlooked and ignored by almost everyone. . . except by God.  He placed value upon her simplicity, humility, purity.  Her complete willingness to do His will.

There was no worldwide search for the most beautiful, likely candidate for the role in which Mary is cast.  Beauty, notoriety, wealth, impressive credentials and accomplishments simply did not figure into the equation.

God has identified Himself forever with the downtrodden the simple, the disenfranchised. When introducing the one who ultimately would claim the title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,”  God did not confer with Heads of State.  He didn’t need or heed their advice or wealth or power.

Think for a moment about the SHEPHERDS…WHO WERE THEY?  Not famous athletes, that is for sure.  Nor well-known scientists or scholars or Nobel Prize winners.  They were as ordinary as the guy who runs your grocery store.  Or works behind the counter at your post office. They did not dwell in an impressive, “high-rent district.”  When we’re told later that they were “abiding in the fields,” it means literally that they LIVED out there.  They did not have nice homes or convenient nine to five jobs with benefits.   They were certainly not high paid executives with obscene salaries, benefits and ‘golden parachutes.’  They were simple, honest and ordinary folk.

And wouldn’t it have made more sense if God had taken advantage of modern technology?  GPS, the Internet, CNN, Around the world around the clock instant international exposure for example?  The ingredients our scientists have only recently begun to understand and use WERE IN EXISTENCE THEN.  And, really, since God inhabits eternity, time as we view it is inconsequential to Him.  He can remember the future.  From His standpoint, the past, present and future can all be viewed simultaneously…It would have been a simple matter for Him to speed up time, or slow it down, so that our high speed internet and sophisticated means of communicating globally instantly could have just as easily been at His disposal then, as well as now.  He could have summoned the greatest leaders of all time (along with their influence and wisdom)  and brought the greatest news team imaginable to break the “Story.”  He could have used the most advanced technology in existence today, as well as the unbelievable improvements that are “in the pipe,” or still germinating somewhere in the distant future in brilliant young minds.  He did not do that.

While we’re “just thinking” let’s include The SHEPHERDS…WHO WERE THEY?  Wouldn’t it have made more sense if God had taken advantage of modern technology?  GPS (Think what an ‘addition’ that would have been if He insisted on bringing the “Wise Men” to the birthplace!) the internet, CNN, Around the world around the clock…The ingredients our scientists have only recently begun to understand and use WERE IN EXISTENCE THEN.

Infinite possibilities were available.  But what God COULD have done is not what He did!  That was not the way He wanted to do things.  In my opinion, He deliberately chose the plain, simple, ordinary, poor, neglected and overlooked in order that no one anywhere could ever feel unworthy of His attention and care.  He’s often chosen the “weak things of the world to confound the wise.”  He’s done that routinely, as a matter of fact!  And continues to do so to this hour!  If, in your eyes or the eyes of others, you have considered yourself the “least likely” of persons God would choose and use. . . It may surprise you to know IN HIS SIGHT, you may be the Most likely person through whom He decides to work tomorrow morning. That is the way He works.  And whom He uses and how He uses them and when and where is His decision, not ours.

It was never as if He did not care for the “up and out.”  But if He’d used such to break the news of His Son’s Birth and then spread it like wildfire after He was later crucified and rose from the dead. . . Some of us would have excused ourselves.  We would likely have said: “I don’t have that kind talent.  Or that much money.  Or that much influence.  Or that much personality.”  And, you know very well as I do, that if we had by our own ingenuity managed to “pull off” such a production, we’d have claimed the credit.  We’d probably have had the choir of angels trumpeting our praise instead of His.

When God chose those whom He used in this drama, it is another evidence that His magnificent Grace encompasses all.

No one is “unworthy” or “useless” or unloveable or unforgiveabale in His sight.

If you’ve ever doubted that fact, and if it is true that ‘repetition aids learning,’ you may want to read that last sentence again.  And again!

I’ve long believed the truth of the Incarnation, though I’m left in jaw-dropping awe when I try to fathom the depth and meaning of such an event.  But another very beautiful lesson we can learn from the accounts of the Nativity, is that God chose to use common, ordinary, simple people to make His point and get His message across.  And He used (and uses) them thereafter to take the message of the Angels to everyone else: “Unto you is born, this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

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EVER LOOK AT IT THIS WAY?

With finite minds, we cannot define infinity or eternity.  We’ll never be able to  do that.  But we can think.

As an exercise in thought, here’s something I’d like to suggest that you consider:  For a long time, scientists thought a molecule was the smallest particle in existence.  Research went a bit further, and we were taught that neutrons and protons and atoms were even smaller.  Nobody ever saw any of those things!  They were able to observe effects of their presence, but no one ever  actually saw an atom.  They can see what the wind does.  But no one has ever seen the wind.

Much of our knowledge about some scientific facts (astronomy, for example) is based on mathematical calculations.  That’s how some of the planets were discovered, and how other intergalactic objects (distant planets and stars) were located, identified, and tracked.  Before Albert Einstein, atoms were considered to be the smallest particle(?) in existence and his “Theory of Relativity” grew  out of the research of  a massive mind.  He was a theoretical physicist.  All his work was cranial.  It took place between his ears.  He never conducted actual physical experiments, but his thought experiments were the basis upon which theories were developed, the atom was split and the nuclear age emerged. And our world was changed dramatically, forever.

One of the practical results of Einstein’s thinking was that the atom, once considered the smallest, indivisible particle in the universe, was split!  Some disastrous consequences of that theoretical research were the atomic bomb, the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the birth of the nuclear age.  We have yet to see where that discovery may lead.

I simply cannot comprehend the enormity, mystery, and potential of some of the ideas which Newton, Einstsein, Hawking and others considered.  Nor can I, on the other hand, understand the profound and powerful statement John used when he spoke of the entrance of Jesus Christ into human history.  Here’s his version of the Nativity.  Here’s how he tells the Christmas event:

THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US, AND WE BEHELD HIS GLORY, AS OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF GOD, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. (John 1:1 and following)

May I just ask you to ponder this statement further?   If such incredible power could be released from the ‘splitting of an atom,’ can we even begin to understand the reversal of such a process?  Can you imagine compressing eternity into time?  Not just turning loose all the stored up energy and power in a tiny atom, but getting all that colossal power compressed again into such a tiny space?

What John is trying to tell us is that the Son of God stooped to become a human being.  The Apostle Paul had his own way of tracing this great descent. A baby!  Asleep in an animal’s feed trough!

Eternity did not simply intersect time.  The glory of God, the living Word of God (Jesus Christ), the “only begotten Son of God” was funneled into that little infant, sleeping, gurgling. With dimpled elbows, arms and legs and all the jerky motions of a new-born, in the sleepy, but busy, little village of Bethlehem?  And the entire event was almost unnoticed out on the edges of nowhere in ancient days.

Can you imagine!   Really!

Can you even begin to  imagine????

Response: We don’t even know how to respond, because we have no idea what we’re trying to understand.  Awe.  Adoration. Jaw-dropping wonder.  Sheer amazement! Those seem to be the only appropriate responses.

One of baseball’s all-time great, colorful characters and catchers was Yogi Berra.  He worked some athletic magic with his catcher’s mitt and his bat, but he’s probably equally well known for his malapropisms, his mishandling of words.  No one could bungle words or mangle the language quite like Yogi. Like no other I’ve known, he could get his tange all tongueled up!  His expressions are the stuff of legends.  Even the ones in doubt are delightfully inappropriate.  When asked about the Napoleonic Era, they say he said:  “It shoulda been ruled a hit!”  And this:  “I never said all the things they said I said.” Or, “It looks like déjà vous all over again.”

Once on a rare occasion, he dropped a routine popped fly.  When he tried to explain what had happened, he commented:  “I musta nonchalanted it.”

We do things like that.  When in the presence of mystery and things that are eternal, we sometimes ‘drop the ball.’  We ‘non-chalant’ it.  We skim lightly over strong, heavy, profound words and scarcely grasp what they really mean.  Truth be told, we probably hardly even try to understand.

If even a tiny fragment of the Christmas story is true, the time to yawn and stretch Is gone!  “Ho-hum” is not a rational approach to such profoundly beautiful, wonderful concepts.

The  Bible says simply, plainly, that the Word…The Eternal Living Word of God…became flesh, just like us.  And lived among us.

As summer settles into autumn and we head toward winter and into the Christmas season. . . and before we get caught up in the red and green, insanely profit driven rush to make the cash registers ring . . . wouldn’t it be wise to pause and consider the real significance and wonder of the real meaning of Christmas?

God’s son and servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student,                                                                                                                                               ~donkimrey

“Wherever you go preach the Gospel.  And when necessary, use words.”  ~ St. Francis of Assissi.

THE LONG HAUL

“Wherever you go preach the Gospel.  And when necessary, use words.”                                 ~ St. Francis of Assissi.

After lengthy, careful and prayerful thought, I’ve made a deliberate decision and a commitment which I share with you, here and now, hoping you’ll pray that I’ll be faithful and effective in honoring that decision.

There are many places where intelligent, conscientious and dedicated people are needed for service.  There are many areas which deserve efforts from the brightest and best among us. Serious social issues beg to be addressed.  Biblical and theological issues deserve prayerful, careful thought and devotion.  There is evangelism, apologetics, scientific exploration in so many really challenging and worthwhile fields.  Diseases need to be conquered, pressing social, economic, environmental and other problems need to be addressed.

And on and on I could go.  But somewhere I came to understand that you cannot travel simultaneously in every direction.

Because of my own mistakes and time spent away from my Christian faith, I can understand how someone “messes up” and feels they have no options.  I’ve spent endless hours in “the pit,” blaming and shaming myself and only lately beginning to understand that God never stopped loving me…not even when I tried to stop loving and serving Him.  In my case, I’m an imperfect guy on a journey, but it’s a journey toward hope and home.

I’m in it for the long haul.

Often feeling very unworthy to assume such an assignment, I declare now that is what I plan to do with the rest of my time here letting anyone who will read or listen to what I have to say:

God really does love and forgive us, even when we foolishly forget that.  And He really can and will use us if we let Him do that.

Just one more thing:  There are many self-help, self-improvement books on the market. I try to read a lot and I respect honest scholarship and excellence wherever I encounter it.  For my purposes, though, Scripture will be always be the primary source for my thinking and writing.  Believing it is in a unique sense, Gods’ Word, my feeling is that I’ll thus be a much better, wiser man, and more able to understand and help others who have struggled, are struggling, or someday may have to endure some dark nights of the soul.

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student                                         dkGCBK