When the Lord became a friend

Many stories hail the stable boy who becomes a master and marries the princess, rising from ashes to dine with kings. It works for poor boys and girls working hard in school to dream and for those climbing the corporate ladder to beat all odds. It says the sky is the limit, every dream is valid, dare to dream and no man is limited. It’s exactly the kind of story that make great motivational speaking and draw flock all over the place. Story of the unlikely employee become boss. 

Sometimes you have stories of admirable bosses who relate well with employees. Bosses and rulers who are kind and humane who listen to their subjects. And we all think if only all leaders were like that. Not proud and selfish but down to earth and approachable. First story speaks of power being attainable even by the least of us and second of it being shared or at least bringing us closer.  

But the story of Christmas is one of a master come down to be one with his subjects. Not a phoenix who rises from the ashes but a prince who leaves his throne to know and save his subjects. While his people could only dream of ever living with him he comes down to be one of them in their weakness and limitation. He doesn’t lose his identity or authority but that doesn’t bar him from experiencing life with them as a common man. 

He’s born through the pain of labour like any of us though by a virgin. He goes to school and causes a scare to his parents as he schools his teachers. He’s no ordinary child, God is born as a man in him. But he also experiences pain, grief, hunger, love and loss like any of us. He feels pain when injured and suffers alongside his friends. 

But what makes this a great story is that he not only becomes one of us as a friend but his humanity, suffering and death was for our sake. He became one of us to save us from our mortal weakness and make us one with him if only we receive and believe in him. He left his throne so that by faith in him we might one day reign with him. But not all received him. 

John the apostle tells us: 

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

He was born like us so that those who receive him by faith will one day be born of him and be with him. He came down to us so that through him we might go up with him. 

He was born in human weakness like common man so that we would be born in glory through his Spirit by faith in him. He showed us the way up isn’t by working really hard to climb the ladder. It was by him coming down to pick us up. The prince became a friend and more than a friend one who saves his own friends. 

In Jesus we find the kind of friend we all desire. One who lays down his own life for us. But more than a friend we find a Saviour. The prince of peace come to dwell with man and save him from slavery to sin, this broken world and it’s harsh ruler the devil. 

John continues saying: 

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

He came that first Christmas and died on the cross to save his people, those who believe in him from their sins, see Matthew 1:21. And he will come again to bring us all who believe into his heavenly home. If only we would listen to him and obey his command! 

Christmas my friends is more than an end of year holiday. It’s more than rest, family and being kind to strangers, it’s about the Lord who became a friend that by faith in him we would be saved.

Saved from ourselves, from the circle of life every year with sin and corruption, saved from poor leadership, pain and death. Christmas speaks of a child king who became one of us so that by faith in him we might become one with him. He was born a son of man that we would become sons of God. Born to earth that we might be born in heaven through faith in him. This is my hope and joy this Christmas. What is yours? 

Do you want to just go round the sun again facing the same challenges of your sin and this world, complaining and dying in desperation? You could try hope in your self drive and ambition but we know that is limited. You might wish things will become better next year but we’ve been there before. Or you could surrender yourself to this child who became the king of the world to obey him as your Lord and Saviour. To be saved from your sins and live the rest of your life with the hope of eternal life.

My prayer is you’ll choose the latter so that like us who believe you’ll live and face next year with the hope of eternal life. Let me know if you want to talk more about this friend and king and the hope he gives us who believe. To know him as your Lord and Saviour and live with the sure hope of eternal heavenly life with him. He was born on earth so that by believing in him you might be born in heaven.

Wishing you a merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

The currency of hope

When you are ill and feeling like this could be what carries you under what drives you is hope. Hope that the medication the doctor prescribed will do the job. Hope that your body is strong enough to fight the pathogens. Hope that tomorrow you’ll wake up feeling much better. 

But hope is not only a valuable currency when you are lying sick in your bed. Hope drives the world around. Did you know that there’s a thousand death traps that could kill you anyday? From your bedroom to your workplace and yet we wake up every day and match on like nothing could go wrong. Why? The bliss of ignorance? Perhaps for some of us. Don’t care attitude? I suppose for a number. But mostly it’s because hope tells us it’s okay. That it’ll be well.

I know I’m exaggerating but just think about it.  What made you work so hard in your studies back in school? What makes you give that extra hour in the office? Why do you try so hard with that relationship? There could be many reasons but I bet one of the main ones is hope. Hope that things will get better in future. That you’ll succed in life if you put the extra effort today. You’ll get into that college, get that job, that girl will marry you…

Listen to what famous people have said about hope:

There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” – Bernard Williams

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson

The problem is when what we’d hope for doesn’t pay off and unfortunately that happens a lot. When hard work doesn’t always means a better job and pay. When giving more in a relationship doesn’t reap more love. When the boss doesn’t even realise just how hard you work. It’s the cause of many a depressed souls, many drug addicts and has even killed a good number. 

But someone will say such tragedies only happens when we give up hope. Realise how twisted that sounds, you get in trouble because of hope and hope is what will take you out of it. Hope that it’ll be better next time if you tried a bit harder this time or if you are a bit smart this time it’ll work out and the same story continues. Hope motivates us to go the extra mile but when it fails it may cost us our lives.

But what if our hope was placed in something or someone that could never fail? A hope that guarantees results not just as a cliche to make us work hard and for longer hours now. But hope that guarantees what it promises and delivers when’s it’s called upon. That would be worth everything. Wouldn’t it? That my friends is my hope this Christmas.

I’m talking about the hope of Christians based on what God said on his Word. You see God made a promise thousands of years ago that he would send his son to be ruler and rescuer of his people and he fulfilled that promise by sending Jesus to save his people from their sins, see Matthew 1:21. In this God proved he can be trusted and so his promise of the future informs our hope for today and tomorrow.

Hope that this same Jesus will come again to rescue us from this broken world, from it’s corruption, sickness and death. And bring us to that heavenly mountain to dwell with God in peace and gladness forever. Hear how John puts it when Jesus showed him a small peek through the window of this new world:

…4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.(H) There will be no more death’[b](I) or mourning or crying or pain,(J) for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21

This hope is sure because God has kept his word by sending Jesus to be born among men and to die to save us from our sins. This same Jesus was raised from the dead and is preparing this home for us now. So our hope is not only better than limited success, better pay or a working relationship. It’s sure and that’s the currency that drives the Christian and the work of the Gospel. 

This hope drives us out of bed into the world. It takes us through sickness and health, it informs our success and failure and gives us great joy even when circumstances are difficult. It’s not just a wish that things will get better. It’s a guarantee that the future eternal holds so much more for a believer that they can easily give up this life for Jesus and the Gospel now. And they can do that with great joy because of the reward of our hope. This is my hope and joy this Christmas

What’s your hope this Christmas? 

One joy at a time

It’s hard sometimes to find something to be grateful about when you are bombarded with all the bad that is going around us. It’s certainly been the case for most people this year with COVID 19 and its ripple effects. Sometimes I’m in a dilemma whether I should turn on the news because though I want to keep updated I know what I’ll see. More deaths, more sick, broken systems, bad leadership, more confusion…

But I’ve realized with all that’s been going wrong this year there’s still been a lot of good happening and there’s still a reason to be grateful as we come to the end of the year. Amidst the cloud of darkness that has been heavy on us light has shone and I wouldn’t be shocked if for some this might be the best year of their life.

But I’m also concerned about something that seems to become common and acceptable even among believers, that is , discontentment and ingratitude. It seems to me we have allowed the prevailing circumstances to be the sole determinant of our happiness and joy. That we are happy because things are going well and mostly that means they are going our way. We’ve finally got that job, or like me we got married, or because we haven’t slept hungry or been kicked out by our landlords or just because we are alive.

I know you must be getting confused because certainly these are things to be happy about and praise God for. But my problem is if our joy depends on external factors then we surely haven’t understood our identity in Christ and the Gospel. And this is not only unbiblical it’s a dangerous thing for our souls because we are left at the mercy of our world not our Lord.

Just imagine with me how life would have been for the first disciples. Imagine if they let the world around them define their happiness. Wouldn’t they have been the saddest people on earth. I mean people and governments were out to get them literally speaking. Think about all that the apostle Paul went through and yet when you read his epistles you don’t hear him mourn and complain all the time. Instead he says things like:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5

Now my aim is not to undermine our problems or even suggest we should never complain or get angry when things are going wrong especially when they can be fixed. Rather that we understand happiness rightly from the Gospel’s perspective so that we don’t end up like everyone else. There are many reasons to be sad and depressed when you look around or even look within. But for a believer the cure to that is by looking above.

How else do you suppose the apostles lived and went to their death happy? It wasn’t because they had great lawyers or believed in themselves. It was because they looked up to the one who called them who could make good out of every situation. They saw him who called them from darkness to his light and the one they were soon going to spend eternity with. And in that case suffering and death couldn’t hinder their joy.

Christians have always had a reason to be happy even when they were not sure of the next meal, or about their jobs, relationships, health, parenting, retirement… Because their joy was found in their relationship with Jesus. It was founded on what Christ had achieved for them by rescuing them from slavery to sin, the mess that is this world and the lies of its ruler the devil. It was based on that promise, behold I’m with you always to the end of the age, Matthew 28:20. And the assurance that even if they died that night things would only get better as they woke up to eternal life in heaven. This is a joy that the prevailing circumstances can never rob from a believer.

So there’s always a reason to be grateful and when you start thinking about it you realize there’s more than one. And so what I want to suggest is as we reflect on all that’s happened this year let’s remember the joys however little and simple. To pause from all the chaos and reflect on God’s grace and goodness in 2020. Ingratitude blinds our eyes from God’s immense love, kindness and mercy and when that happens the devil only needs whisper a lie and soon we start to doubt, become discontent and get angry with God and fellow believers falling for his petty schemes.

Let’s cut him off by reflecting on God’s goodness to us. This will sound cliché but the first thing I’m grateful about is hearing the true saving Gospel over and over again this year. That God in his kindness brought people my way through the church family and friends all over the world to remind me the Gospel this year. In moments of confusion and desperation I was reminded about God’s sovereignty and his loving kindness on all his children. That I was not alone and that whatever happened God would use it to grow my love, dependence and commitment to him.

Don’t get me wrong there were times that I struggled knowing this in my head but finding it hard to believe in my heart. Times when I knew my help was a prayer away and yet found it hard to stretch that arm.

But I was reminded my hope isn’t built on me and what I feel or experience but on the unfailing and irrevocable word of God. And in that word Jesus had promised to be with me, to keep me and present me holy before his father on the last day.

I didn’t need a godfather or a guardian angel because Jesus was with me through it all. And he used his Word through his people to keep my eyes where they should be, not focused on my circumstances here and now or inward looking but looking to him the pioneer and perfecter of my faith, see Hebrews 12:1-3. I’m so grateful to God for the Gospel, for my loving church family here and beyond and the faithful preaching of his Word. What are you grateful for?