Eating His Words

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“Moreover he said unto me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.’” Ezekiel 3:1

 
So here is Ezekiel still listening and being instructed and being equipped by the Lord. These words being given are not just any angel’s words. These are words of truth and judgment from God. And Ezekiel isn’t just supposed to hear them. He’s to hear and do, to hear and follow through, to hear and heed, to hear and be changed. And I thought I was going to talk about that hearing in verse 10, but I can’t get past a word in this first verse. It has just stopped me in my tracks. And that’s ok, Lord, because isn’t that part of hearing and listening, that I defer from my plan and pay attention to yours? And if one little word says, “Listen to me and don’t pass me by,” shouldn’t I obey?

 
Ezekiel can’t eat Your words until he “finds” them, can he? And eating Your words is important because they are our life sustain-ers. We have to imbibe them so that they become a part of us from the inside out. They have to become our sustenance to show that You are our very Sustenance.

 
Now, if I just look at Strong’s Concordance, I think of this word “find” or “matsa” in Hebrew maybe as something I just happen upon, that maybe exists upon my way or comes forth to be. Is there much significance to me if I just happen to attain something? Is there a difference between me finding or acquiring and my taking hold on something? Maybe it would behoove me to try to understand this finding better.

 
Remember that our problem here is a rebellious, hard-hearted people who should have known and loved and obeyed their heavenly Father. But they were rejecting Him and Ezekiel was to be their messenger to give them the opportunity to turn back to God. And it wasn’t like they didn’t have all the information that they needed to already find You, God, and love and serve You. It wasn’t like Ezekiel was being sent to a lost tribe who didn’t even know about You.
Let’s go all the way back to 1 Chronicles 28:9 to try to understand this finding, this word matsa. “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” This isn’t new stuff here, but it certainly is serious stuff.
If you read and listened closely enough so that you really heard the words, you see that idea or reality of seeking God and finding Him. It’s attainable. It’s doable. But it’s not something we can do all on our own. We have to take part in that action, but You actually let Yourself be found by us!

 
Matsa’ is a word about finding. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for someone, some place, or some thing, matsa’ is that word that you use when you discover what you have been looking for. In this verse in 1 Chronicles it’s not used any differently than that. But we learn more by understanding the form of the word. The form here “tells us that the action is [a] continuous, present tense, passive event…instead of me finding God, He actually finds me—but He lets me think I’m doing the work because He wants me to be encouraged for my effort.” (Skip Moen) It’s the same thing You’re telling Ezekiel. “You eat, Ezekiel. You find My words and take them in, and then follow through on them.” But did Ezekiel make up the words? Did he find without God showing him? Absolutely not. God, You prepare the table for Ezekiel and You prepare the table for each of us.

 
So here is this table, this table of abundance, filled with more than satisfaction, and it’s all right here before us. Just like in Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” The problem is, we handle it wrongly. We whine, “‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.” (Isaiah 58:3) Here, the people find their desire. It’s still that word matsa. Remember how it means “to find” and also “to come upon, reach, attain”? It’s that same word as in Deuteronomy 4:29, “ But if from thence you shall seek the LORD your God, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This kind of finding comes from seeking. But in Isaiah, they were fasting not to seek God, but to seek being noticed, or to seek the reward of the blessing. The sad thing is that we can seek the delights from God without ever seeking the delight of God Himself.

 
How can someone seek delight from You without seeking You? I can seek an emotional satisfaction from knowing I’ve done a good job. My practicing of my “religion” can give me a good feeling about myself. I can delight in that feeling. I can delight in how people view me. I can delight in my own goodness. I can delight in the monetary blessing or position of being valued and listened to. I can delight in a ministry. I can delight in my own works. I can delight in my own image or my own ideas.

 
Whether I eat from Your table or refrain from it in order to fast, my goal is not all about the table. My eyes and heart ought to be set on the One who provides the table. My goal ought to be righteousness and restitution and repentance, not feeling better about myself. My goal ought to be knowing You more and worshipping You with all I am and delighting in Who You Are and how You even arrange things in my life so that I CAN find You. It ought to be all about GIANT YOU even finding tiny little me, and REVELLING IN THE TRUTH AND JOY OF IT SO THAT I MUST JUMP UP AND DOWN AND DO HANDSTANDS UNCONTROLLABLY AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH IN TOTAL OBEDIENT LOVE! (Oh, did I get a little excited there? ) The proof of the pudding is in whether my actions change my expectations or demands on myself and on others. Has my heart been transformed? Or am I just looking for a good feeling? What have I really found? Anything, or just some pretend idea? You want us to really find You.

 
So why was Ezekiel able to find You when what seemed like the rest of Israel couldn’t? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Nope, it wasn’t new stuff here. It wasn’t like they didn’t know what to do. I think it’s the same for most of us today. It’s not new stuff. And it’s not like we don’t know what we ought to do and what we need to do.

 
We’re all running around asking, “What is the meaning of life?” Well, the answer has always been right in front of us. “The answers to life are found in seeking God.” (Skip Moen) God promised that those who seek Him would find Him. When Jesus shared, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” (Luke 11:9) He wasn’t coming up with some new idea. He was restating what should have already been known. From day one of creation, it’s what our lives were designed to be. We were created to seek the kingdom of God above and before everything else, and to seek His righteousness, and the rest of what we were designed for flows from that to us. And you can’t seek the kingdom and God’s righteousness without seeking Him.

 
Jeremiah uses this other word for seeking. It’s about diligently searching for knowledge. And that’s what causes a problem for many of us. Because we start thinking knowledge is about what we do, like religious activity, instead about who we know, like You God. We start replacing You with good works and ritual and rules and books about You and people’s testimonies. That’s why we burn out and feel empty.

 
Mary, in the middle of a busy day, found God in His temple. How? In her house, in all the business, she sat down at the feet of Jesus. She chose the place of a disciple, the place of closeness and intimacy, of quietness and learning, of being filled and restored. Martha was choosing service and doing the proper thing, the good thing. But Jesus said that Mary chose what was better? Was Mary lazy? No. But she was willing to drop everything to enter the kingdom of God and sit in His presence. She was seeking His kingdom first. She was soaking up His righteousness. And from that, she would be able to take those things to those around her.

 
Unless we eat of Your flesh and drink of Your blood, unless we are that intimate with You that You are changing us from the inside out, how will You or anyone else recognize us as Yours? Here’s the thing, we get to choose to seek You or not. “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:28) It’s not unusual to lose things and find them. It’s a very common occurrence in life. So it’s easily understood. But there’s a problem when we think we can seek God’s kingdom and wisdom but we choose to reject His rule. It doesn’t work that way. We become blinded. We grope and won’t find even when the answer is right within our grasp. We could put our hand right on it and not recognize it. The answer becomes invisible to us. The sad thing is that it was right there for us, it was ours, but by our own foolish decision we lost the gift that should have been ours all along.

 
I want to find what You place before me. I want to see You and know You and revel in knowing You and following You and walking in Your ways. I want to know how You feel about me by experiencing You. I want to know the power of Your resurrection and the power of Your love and the power of everything that is You. I want to know the beautiful wonder of You. And with that wonder comes hard things for me, just like for Ezekiel. Imbibing You, dwelling in You, means I can’t dwell in the world the way it is the same way. Knowing You and finding You means knowing and finding the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your sufferings. But if I am really Yours, if I want to really find You and know You, then I must let myself be found and found fully. I must let You have all Your power over me. Because Your desire is to make us a nation of priests after Your own heart, influencing the world around us in You. Your eyes run to and fro, back and forth, over the whole earth waiting to show Yourself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are complete in You. Why would I want to ruin such a good thing?

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The Good Life

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Photo credit to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura.

“And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.”  Zechariah 10:9

Sometimes we think the life of being redeemed in You is a life of ease.  That’s anything but the truth.  Here, Zechariah and Israel are getting to be a part of a great thing- the rebuilding of the temple.  But let’s not forget that this is happening while being under the rule of a foreign nation.  All of prophecy has not come to pass yet for Israel or for us.  And even though this great thing was happening according to Your plan, God, there was more greatness to come.  Only that greatness would come through and after many more great trials.

How would the people of Israel wind up sown among other people?  Were they deliberately going out and sowing themselves of their own accord?  I mean, You did tell them that they were to be a light unto the Gentiles and that all nations would be blessed through them.  And if we go further back in Scripture to the very beginning, Your mandate to mankind was to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.  How do you do that if you stay in one place? 

Why were the people building the tower of Babel?  Because they were ignoring Your desire.  They wanted to accomplish their own greatness.  So You confounded their languages.  Was Israel doing the same thing for so long in their greatness?  Was there something they were missing about how to be a light to the world?  Is Your way of doing things radically different than the way we would choose for ourselves?

Israel didn’t sow themselves among the people.  You brought persecution that sowed them all over the world as it is today.  But You are still not finished.  They have yet as a nation of scattered candles to remember You in those far countries and be witnesses and return to You.

But what about us?  What do we do when our plans and desires are confounded?  What do we do when the mountains in our life seem insurmountable?  What do we do when the pain seems unbearable?  It’s not that the pain isn’t real.  Betrayal really hurts down deep.  The death of a loved one leaves a deep and lasting pain.  Losing everything leaves an emptiness.  Watching everything ripped from your hands, suffering through cancer or MS, being defamed, abuse, addiction, disappointment, failure…The Israelites would experience things like this and have to continue living.  So will we.  But what will our choice be, to continue living by digging deeper into the God who can keep us?  Or will we dig deeper down into our selves and our self-preservatory ways?

If “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction , for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,” (2 Timothy 3:16,17) then maybe we should take note of tough times more carefully.  Because it’s not like we don’t have a God who understands now, is it? 

We look at suffering and we think, “Oh, why am I being punished?”  Or “They must have done something bad.”  Or we just get really upset about it if we think it’s undeserved.  Our attitudes about suffering haven’t really changed much since Biblical times and probably before.  Jesus noticed the attitude.  “You think these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things?” But Jesus said, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”  And He repeated that twice.  You know, that word repent, metanoeo in Greek, means to think differently, to reconsider.  And I don’t think You are asking us to rethink what we think about the Galileans.  I think that You are trying to get us to rethink about who You are and how our lives line up with You.  Maybe we need to return to what is really important- our relationship with You and our focus on You.  Maybe that is what sustains us through the ups and downs and tragedies of a life made chaotic by the entrance of sin.

I mean, why do we think that we should be able to avoid suffering?  Paul suffered on numerous occasions.  Wasn’t he God’s man?  And God let him suffer?  God let him be beaten?  God let him be stoned three times and left for dead?  God let him be shipwrecked?  Where was God when he needed him?  Right there all along.  God is still God, even when our life is threatened or waining.  You know, we don’t hear Paul complaining about these things.  We here Paul telling others that this will be a part of our life so learn to suffer victoriously and well in the Lord. 

Paul, a sufferer, and physical sufferer too, stated “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith…”   Why?  “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” (Philippians 3:8-10)  Because by faith, one day, when the end did come, he would experience the resurrection of the dead unto eternal life.  But the fellowship doesn’t start then.  The fellowship is already. 

The fellowship is already because Jesus suffered and we are not above our Master, are we?  On the walk to Emaus, Jesus reprimanded the two disciples.  “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?”  Suffering was an imminent and necessary part of being the Messiah.  Because Jesus suffered being tempted, He is able to relieve those who are tempted.  By suffering, the Son learned obedience.  He suffered as a sacrifice for others.   So Peter tells us, “For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21) 

What was His example?  When he was reviled, He didn’t revile back.  When He suffered, He didn’t threaten the one inflicting the suffering nor did He threaten God.  But what did He do?  He committed Himself to God, to the One that judges righteously.  He trusted Himself and His outcome to God even though the results on this earth stunk, to put it lightly.  He trusted God to make it right in His time and in His way.  And that’s where our problem lies, doesn’t it?  We don’t want to let God do it in His way or His time.  We aren’t surrendered in that kind of trust.  We want it fixed now, now, now!  Who’s plan is it about anyway?  Mine or God’s?  Isn’t that what it comes down to?

But thank God that Jesus didn’t think like us or He never would have gone to the cross.  But He obediently suffered for us and now, in Him, no matter what transpires in my life, I am able to think just like Him and experience suffering as victoriously as Him.  But if I don’t finish the course, I can’t be victorious.  And Peter again reminds all those who are living their trust in Christ, “But the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make You perfect, establish, strengthen, settle You.”  (1 Peter 5:10)

How do I make it through this suffering?  I trust.  I believe that God understands the bigger picture.  If Jesus believed that and obediently suffered all He did faithfully, and a mere man named Paul could have the strength to do so based on his trust in You, then what’s my problem?  Doesn’t it boil down to a lack of trust?  Because if You are the I AM, and You ARE the I AM, then it’s not an issue about You doing anything.  Whether You do or You don’t, You are worthy and You are bringing Your will to pass the way You see fit that is right and pure and true and holy.  And I need to trust You just because You are You.  I need to trust You when life is rotten or when life is grand, because though my life changes, You do not.  Am I striving for a good life or am I looking with all my heart at pursuing fellowship with You?  Because the truth is, You are the only Good Life.

Gird Up Your Loins Like a Man!

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Picture credit to The Art of Manliness and Ted Slampyak

“For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20

Being familiar at all with Jesus’ walk on earth, this whole statement seems to not make sense coming from Him, I mean, considering that most of the scribes and Pharisees had a major problem with Jesus and considering Jesus was often calling them hypocrites.  Here were the “religious” people of the day.  These were the kind of people who would go in the Temple and pray out loud for everyone to hear and say, “Thank You, Lord, that I’m not a sinner like that one over there.  You know all the good things I do.”  Well, at least that’s how You tell it, Lord.  And then on the other hand there’s the tax collector, who goes into the Temple and beats his chest because he knows how unworthy he is.

But here You are, saying outright that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, the righteousness of man is not enough to make me acceptable to enter Your kingdom, to enter into an eternal relationship with You.  Unless my righteousness superabounds beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees, I haven’t got a chance.  And I don’t.  I absolutely don’t have a chance on my own.  Because on my own, all the righteousness I could ever muster up could only at its best equal that of the scribes and Pharisees.  Because on my own, all the righteousness I could ever muster up from myself would just be that- my own righteousness, and that just doesn’t cut the cake.

I live in a world where somehow we’ve entered the mindset that we can establish our own righteousness.  Unfortunately, that’s an idea straight from hell.  It’s not a new idea either.  You, God, even accused Job of doing this.  “Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, ‘Gird up your loins now like a man: I will demand of you, and declare you unto me.  Will you also disannul my judgment? Will you condemn me, that you may be righteous.'” (Job 40:6-8) There is only one who establishes righteousness.  You, God, have set the standard and it is so much higher than ours.  Now, some of the world, maybe a lot, has absolutely no zeal for God.  And it’s not surprising that they don’t know or care about Your righteousness, Lord.  But Paul pointed this out about another group of people, and it applies even today.  “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”  (Romans 10:2-3)  But what is righteousness?

Paul continues, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.”  Let me think about this in more straight forward language.  I’ll borrow from the Complete Jewish Bible.  Their zeal “is not based on correct understanding; for, since they are unaware of God’s way of making people righteous and instead seek to set up their own, they have not submitted themselves to God’s way of making people righteous.  For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah [Jesus], who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts.  For Moshe [Moses] writes about the righteousness grounded in the Torah that the person who does these things will attain life through them.”  Paul also says that righteousness grounded in trusting says, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”

“Oh,” you say, “I read the Word and I’ve hid it in my heart.”   Just remember that the demons and Satan himself have the Word memorized and it’s ingrained in them too.  But they certainly aren’t righteous.  They live according to their own will and not God’s.  They live according to their own pleasure and not the delight of the Lord.  And they certainly don’t delight in You, Lord.  They are refusing to submit themselves under the goal of righteousness.  What is the goal?  Well, it’s a Who and not a what.  The goal is Jesus.  The goal is surrender to God’s way, to God’s plan, which totally throws our own righteousness for a loop.  The goal is trust in Jesus Christ.  See, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

So what does it mean when I hear, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”  It means that I have surrendered to God’s plan by surrendering my life and desires to His Son, Jesus Christ.  It means that I am learning moment by moment what His desires are and then surrendering my own desires to submit and delight under His.  It means that Jesus abides in me and I in Him by the power of His resurrection and the work of His Holy Spirit within me.  His word comes out of my mouth because He is flowing out from within.  He has given me a new heart with new desires.  He has changed my whole idea of righteousness and is continually molding it to make it more and more like His.  And it’s not something that happens on the outside.  He supernaturally changes me.  He supernaturally opens my mind and heart to agree with Him and to desire His way more than mine.  This is His righteousness that superabounds above the righteousness of man, even above that of the scribes and Pharisees.

This is righteousness in excess.  When the world mistreats me, because of this righteousness, I can continue not changed by the world but living above the world’s standards.  It’s a righteousness that takes me over the top.  It’s more than full.  It goes beyond every expectation.  It’s better than carrying a load for an enemy as far as asked.  It asks to carry it the whole way.  It’s over and beyond every expectation.  And it’s only found in agreement with You because it takes Your power in us to fulfill this.

I’m not going to define righteousness.  I think if we really are seeking, we know what it is.  It’s hard to define exactly, but we know what it really looks like.  And God, You didn’t just set the example for us in Jesus; You are righteousness.  See, it’s not about being right or doing the right thing.  It way exceeds that.  Let’s just look at Your example.  You created man.  We belong to You.  We owe You our allegience.  You said, “Don’t do that.”  Why?  Because You wanted us to retain our special relationship with You because You loved us and cared for us.  There’s nothing wrong with You desiring that same love back from us.  See, You chose to love us and lavish Your love on us.  Your desire is that we lavish that same love back on You.

But we don’t.  We take that lavish love, and think there is something better.  We turn away. We choose our own way.  We lavish our love on ourselves and other things.  We prove over and over again we don’t deserve Your lavish love.  We deserve Your wrath by the way we treat You with such disdain.  But in Your righteousness You do what is most right for us.  Think about it.  You don’t go against Your character, You uphold Your holiness, but You go beyond the limits of every expectation to make a way for us to not be condemned even though we deserve it.  You take all of Your standards, which are so much higher than ours, and You satisfy them all, for our sake, for my sake, in the person of Jesus Christ.  He exceeded the requirements because I couldn’t and wouldn’t.  He overflowed with You.  You “overdid” it in Him.  Jesus became more than enough righteousness for me.  He became so much more than enough for me, that some was left over.  And that left over is enough to enable me to live in You, to love Your way, and to be made righteous in and by You.

For God made Jesus to be sin for us.  This God man who never sinned, payed our price, our punishment.  And He did it so that we could live in the righteousness of God through faith in Him.  He’s the one that makes us righteous and He’s the one that increases the overflow of His righteousness in us.  It’s His righteousness alone in us that brings glory and praise to God.  Like Paul prayed for believers in Philippi, I want to be found in You, Lord, not having my own righteousness, but having the righteousness through faith in Jesus, that righteousness which is of God by faith, so that I will know, that I will experience, intimately, You and the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your sufferings by being conformed unto Your image.  I want to gird up my loins like a man, submit, and let You be God in my life. Girding up my loins takes some thought and preparation if I’m a little boy, but by the time I’m a man, it ought to be automatic and a part of who I am.  So let my submitting to Your will, to Your righteousness, be so automatic in my life and prepare me for life and the battles ahead.

Bring On the Christmas Inconveniences!

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“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14

Yesterday, two days before Christmas, was an interesting day.  By early morning, two of the things I had planned for the day, already wound up being altered.  That didn’t leave me confidence about the rest of my plans.  It’s been one of those years really.  I just don’t have too much confidence in my plans.  But I knew they could change.  The only thing is that when my plans change like that, especially when it leaves me out of control like that, sometimes it’s not a good feeling.  But then I have to remember that I’m not the one in control anyways, and it’s really O.K.  Because You, Lord, are the One who is really in control of my plans, no matter how big or little they are.

And here I am today, still in Luke.  John is growing up strong in the Spirit at the end of chapter 1.  But today, in chapter 2, I’m confronted with and reminded of that wonderful little word again, “ginomai,” “it came to pass.”   And it’s not just that this random event happened.  This particular event happened because You, Lord, brought it to pass.  It even looked like someone else was in control, but they weren’t, You were in control all along.  You had said in the Old Testament that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.  Here’s Micah’s words from so long ago, “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”  Yes, this little glitch in everyone’s plans wasn’t an accident.  Every glitch is a divine intervention.  It just depends on how we look at it.

So Caesar has this urging in his own little heart to gather everyone to their own town so that he can count all the people and receive their taxes.  Funny how Caesar’s little “pagan” heart has this urging at just this “right” time for Your purposes, Lord.  Isn’t it funny how this major inconvenience imposed by a “pagan” brings Mary and Joseph exactly where they are supposed to be?  What if they had missed that Scripture in Micah?  What if they hadn’t understood it’s significance in their life?  What if Joseph’s training in Scripture hadn’t taken him deep enough to have that ingrained in his head?  How else would they wind up in Bethlehem at just the right time?  Well, I suppose we all need divine inconveniences like this.  I’m just wondering what other things we, or I, would miss without Your divine inconveniences being placed in my life.

So Mary and Joseph go back to Bethlehem.  And while there, they met with other inconveniences in their schedule, in their plans.  I mean, first of all, it surely wasn’t the most opportune time to travel for Mary.  And then, all their relatives had so many people in the house already, even their spare guest rooms were full and they had to stay in the area near the animals.  And whether I call that the barn, or it was in the main house near a special room attached for the animals, window and manger at the base of the room in the house, it certainly wasn’t the most optimum area for giving birth.  There was no handcrafted crib made by Joseph’s hands, only the eating trough of the animals.  Well, the swaddling cloth was probably one constant, that really might not have been out of ordinary.

And those poor shepherds in the field that night.  Even they suffered from divine inconveniences.  Everything was going along like ordinary when all of a sudden there plans are changed.  There is this angel and they are afraid.  And the angel has good news for them, actually good news of great joy for all people.  It was time for them to get off their tushes and go see this baby lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.  And then came inconvenience number 2.  A multitude of angels appeared and started singing praise to God!  Imagine that interruption!  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Now, I’m coming back to this praise, Lord, but first, I just saw that word again!

“And it came to pass”  that after the angels departed, the shepherds acted on what they were inconvenienced by.  They went to find the baby.  Did it just so happen that they went or that they even felt like going?  Oh, my, how could it be more obvious that this interruption changed their hearts and their desires.  You brought this to pass in their hearts.  You gave them this desire.  You urged them on.  And they responded to You.  And they found what You wanted them to find.  And they spread the news abroad.

What was the news that took so many interruptions and inconveniences to find?  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”  This was the Savior.  This was a Savior not like any other savior, even in the humble way he arrived.  Here is the Savior, who would bring peace, “eirene.”  The Greek implies prosperity, quietness, rest, to set at one again.  Skip Moen knows the Greek better than me.  I want to see what he has to say about this word.  “The Greek word for ‘peace’ is eirene.  In the New Testament, the word is about relationships, not external conditions.  The word is not primarily associated with resolution of political conflict, good health, personal well-being or even prosperity.  It is associated with words like love, grace, glory, honor, righteousness and mercy.  Its opposites are also words about relationships:  anxiety, anguish, fear, confusion, division, distress.  Peace is the settled confidence that my relationship with God has been repaired.  Jesus tells us that he ‘gives’ this peace and ‘leaves’ this peace with us.  It is not an announcement that we have accomplished something.  It is a gift left behind for us to enjoy.  Jesus is giving his followers a going-away present.  That present is unbroken fellowship with God.  It is a present that we can have right now and it will last forever.  It places a safety net over our lives that nothing can take away.”

This is what the angels were singing about to shepherds, lowly shepherds.  This was the peace that this baby was coming to offer all men and women, boys and girls, if only they would be willing to be inconvenienced to receive it.  But it doesn’t stop there.  There is more good news.  Jesus is bringing good will toward people too.  Now, I’m not sure what to think here, Lord, because nine other interpretations of this Scripture say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”  (Luke 2:14)  But I wonder if that is missing part of what You want us to see?

See, Your being pleased in me is putting this great act in my ball park.  I mean, it’s saying that my response determines the greatness of what You have done this night in Bethlehem.  If it’s up to me pleasing You, then this gift isn’t as big as the angels make it to be.  Because how many people are really pleasing to You?  Then this gift for all people, has just become a gift for some.

But what if it’s not about me and my ability to please at all.  What if it is all about You.  What if it’s all about Your “eudokia”, Your good will toward men?  Now that’s a whole different story.  What if it just satisfies You to intervene on the behalf of men?  What if it just delights You to interrupt our lives so that we can actually see and understand and know You, who are so above us?  What if it just delights You to instill Your peace in us?  What if it just delights You to make me something I’m not, to make me good like You?  What if it is Your absolute kindness, to make this offer to me?  What if this is Your wish, to change my heart and life and make them after Yours?  What if this is Your purpose for me in all of creation, to be a recipient of Your GOODNESS, of Your GOOD WILL?  What if it’s not about Your good intentions for us?  What if it’s all about Your good working in us?

What if every “ginomai”, every change in my plans, is because You have this wonderful, blessed, holy desire to change me into Your GOOD image?  What if everything that comes to pass, is so that I can learn to trust You more deeply?  What if it is really so little about me, and so much about You and Your workmanship in me?

I mean, why me?  Why Joseph?  Why Mary?  Why the shepherds?  Why Bethlehem?  Why do You choose us?  Well, it’s not because me, or Joseph, or Mary, or the shepherds, or Bethlehem were anything special.  It’s because You, God, are Special.  See, we’re all depraved.  But not You.  See, You’re not obligated to show us grace.  It’s not something any of us deserve.  You choose me not because of my merits, but because of Yours.  You choose me not because of me but because of Your good pleasure.

Paul got it.  Paul saw what I’m seeing in the Christmas story today.  It’s all about Your “predestinating us to adoption through Jesus Christ to [Youself], according to the good pleasure of [Your] will.” ( Ephesians 1:5)  See, this “eudokia”, this good pleasure means “to think well of.”  It’s more than nice thoughts though.  God, You think these good thoughts toward us and then You are willing and resolved to act in accordance with these good thoughts.  Because of Your thoughts toward us, You act in benevolence and grace.  But why?  Why do You feel this way and think this way toward us?

Because it’s more than thoughts in You.  This “eudokia” is based in Your character.  It’s because You are good.  And it goes beyond the fact that You do good things.  Even Your good things come about because they come out of Your good character.  Your goodness is why You are the way You are and why You act the way You act.  Skip Moen put it this way, “The goodness of God is the concentrated energy of active holiness, zealous to promote and produce what is benevolent, just and pure.  The goodness of God is not God’s life-enhancing acts.  It is His very being, a person who is thoroughly and utterly committed to righteousness expressed in action.  God is good because goodness is Who He is, not because He simply chooses to act compassionately today.  When Paul expresses election as the result of God’s good will, he is telling us that the very essence of Who God is will be found in the choices God makes.  There is never any discrepancy between what is good and what God does.  God’s good pleasure is to bring into existence what is righteous, by thought, word and deed.”

So, now I have the answer to why You choose me God.  It’s a righteous act.  By choosing me You get to show Your holiness, Your goodness, Your righteousness in me.  See, I’m not righteous.  I’m everything but.  But You are more powerful than me.  Why would You want my sinfulness to block Your goodness from being expressed in me?  You don’t want it to.  So You choose me.  You choose me to magnify Yourself.  You choose me and my circumstances so that Your character can shine in Your creation, and I’m part of that creation, designed for Your glory.

So here’s the inconvenient part of the deal.  You choose me.  That’s amazing in itself.  But will I allow myself to be inconvenienced, will I allow my plans for my life to be changed, and will I choose You?  I mean, if I really think about it, You inconvenienced Yourself beyond measure for me, just to actively engage Yourself in goodness on my behalf.  Jesus left heaven, had to live like a baby, go through the birth process and everything.  It’s a miracle but it’s not pretty and it’s pretty uncomfortable.  He went through the pain of being disbelieved and misunderstood and ridiculed.  He suffered derision and physical persecution, and betrayal by his closest friends.  He suffered excruciating, unimaginable pain for the cross.  He suffered the weight of my sin, the sin of all the world, and the wrath of His heavenly Father, You, God.  Yes, You inconvenience Yourself for me more than I have ever inconvenienced myself for You.  And why?  Because You are so full of GOODNESS that it absolutely delights You to make others who are so unlike You, just like You.

Yes, I want to respond to You and Your goodness in obedience.  I can’t be good without You because only You are good.  And I am so overwhelmed that You choose by Your goodness to share Your goodness, to impart Your goodness in me.  So bring on the interruptions of my plans and the inconveniences.  No matter the cost, Your goodness is worth everything.