Sunday, December 18, 2016

Clues defining Christmas.

Christmas is no standalone festival. It is tied with unbreakable cords to Calvary. Both of these testimonies to Jesus are bound within the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Cynics glibly dismiss their historicity or speak simplistically of either or both.

Christmas has woven within the books from Genesis to Malachi ‘jigsaw’ clues to the future coming of a Kinsman-Redeemer through Israel. Some are easy to find, others well camouflaged. The possibility of them all merging into one person at one moment in time is astronomical, impossible! Yet Jesus issued the challenge to check Him out through the Jewish Bible and see whether or not the clues point to Him.

Similarly, with Calvary and the events leading up to the cross numerous clues are presented. The challenge of the Bible is for the sincere investigator to assemble the clues, compile a picture and measure it against the Gospel accounts about Jesus.

Truth awaits the seeker. Truth eludes the insincere, the lazy and those happy to be ignorant. The importance of knowing the Truth is always in its power to save from falsehood and living a lie. In regards to discovering the Truth about Jesus the fallout has implications for time and eternity.

Christmas and Calvary actually provide a beautiful unity in which each fulfils the other reason for existing. So, when I celebrate Christmas it is because of the Easter (Jewish Passover) event. When I participate in the resurrection remembrance of Jesus I’m conscious of why Christmas was necessary.

As I close and wish you the wonder, the joy and the promise of Christmas I do it in the certainty of the events of Calvary and the garden tomb. The following poem sums it up.

Christmas and Calvary linked

The cross, would over the manger hover,
Straw, freshly cut the babe did cover.
Yet portraying a tomb, new and unused
Jesus’ body, newly crucified laid inside
Until His resurrection cast death aside.

When angels sang at Jesus’ birth
They proclaimed the One beyond earth
Whose destiny pointed to Calvary!
There, His body would taste death’s savagery,
Leaving scars, His risen body’s testimony.

When the Heaven’s blazed with light
Satan’s kingdom shuddered with fright.
His plan, eradicate Jesus permanently
By crucifixion, on charges of blasphemy
All annulled, when Jesus rose triumphantly!

On the 3rd day the earth quaked, the stone rolled,
Now shown, the tomb empty, as was foretold.
Christmas’ mission fulfilled at Calvary
Our forgiveness offered through their unity,
Verified by Christ’s resurrection victory!
©Ray Hawkins Dec. 2016.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Beatutiful Beast - Storms

Awesome in power and beautiful with its lightning strikes when viewed on television. Fearsome in its savagery and destructive power when engulfed by it. Such is the paradox of the ‘beautiful beast’ called a storm.

The first recorded storm comes from the Biblical account of the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. The sign in the sign afterwards proclaimed a promise wrapped up in the first ever rainbow. In Scripture there are a number of rampaging ‘beautiful beasts’ mentioned. Most are associated with sailing. We recall Jonah but forget Jehoshaphat’s wrecked ships at Ezion-geber (1 Kings 21:48).

In the Gospels there are three specific references to storms. Each of them have an application to how our faith is tested and shaped by life’s storms. This is true whether we find ourselves in midst of a furious physical storm, an ethical, emotional or spiritual one.

Storm 1. Is mentioned in a parable by Jesus as He sums up the Beatitudes. We all build our lives on some foundation, which Jesus classed as Rock or Sand. Both lives, depicted as houses, suffer the assault of the ‘beautiful beast’. In both houses fear would have been felt but only one would be destroyed. The life built upon the ‘Rock’ which refers to the Word of God, prevails. That doesn’t mean to say that there wasn’t damage or pain or fear to the life. No! What is being stressed by Jesus is the life is not shattered even though it has been battered.

Storm 2. In the very next chapter 8 in Matthew’s account is a storm. These professional fishermen were unable to cope with its ferocity. A strange picture is presented by a sleeping Jesus in the midst of the boat being swamped. Many of us have found the storm of life smashing into us and our voice being raised “Jesus, wake up!” Why did Jesus ask them what appears to be a silly question? He said “Why are you afraid, of you of little faith?” The implied answer is, no vessel can sink when the Lord is on board, awake or seemingly asleep!

Storm 3. In Matthew 14 is the feeding of the 5,000 men. Afterwards Jesus went up into the mountains to pray. The disciples took to their boat and merrily sailed away with warm and exciting memories. Evening darkness enveloped them and an unexpected ‘beast of a storm’ pounced. But there wasn’t any sleeping Jesus. He was absent. Why didn’t the Lord rush to their aid, for He could see their plight from the heights? How often have we wondered where Jesus is in the midst of our personal dealings with our own ‘beast of a storm.’ Could one of His reasons be to teach us He is able to come to us ‘walking on the water’ for He is the master over the ‘beautiful, ferocious beast.’ As with the fishermen so to with us, our response is a deeper faith and gratitude in Him.

Storm 4. This happened to Paul in Acts 27. Dispatched to Rome to be tried by Caesar the authorities ignored the season’s changing weather situation. It was approaching the time for the Euroclydon (northeaster) to arise and blow. It did!  The account shows the magnitude of the storm. Why did they suffer the fear, the loss, the harrowing of those fourteen days? Because of a fateful and rash choice. Why were all on board not killed? Because God had promise years before to Paul he would bear testimony to Jesus before Caesar. Because of that promise all on board the doomed boat were under God’s protection.

The reason for these accounts to be in Scripture is to teach us, warn us and encourage us to cling by faith to Jesus, the Lord over the storm. We live in an unstable world which seems to breed these ‘storms’ of emotional, spiritual, ethical and relational categories. Jesus, through His word, wants us to be faithful in the storm, strong when the ‘beast snarls’ at us to cower us. He also wants us to be merciful when for no reason of our own we are caught up in the storm caused by others. Turn it into a testimony of grace in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Christmas mayhem shopping.

Christmas shopping in our Western World is mayhem and madness. Watching the stampedes as shoppers invade stores for so called bargains is frightening. I wonder how many sing the Christmas time blues throughout the new year as they either repay credit cards or enrich pharmacists for medication to ease battered and bruised bodies. A lot of serious commentary could be said about this mania.  But, we all know about it, a few are fortunate to escape it and others revel in the tussle, bustle and hustle  of competing for the bargains.
So, I resurrected a poem to share. It's light hearted without any moral, pious or hidden meaning. If any men read it, they might relate to it. Women, if they have time from their shopping to read this blog, may see me as a misogynist with a fear of shops and sale persons. Not completely correct - only half true. However, the greater worry for all should be over the commercialising of the beauty of Christmas.

There’s no stopping my wife
When she takes me shopping.
All is fair game.
No sense of shame
In the shopping mall jungle
Where she loves to trundle
With Christmas bundle
Of things marked down
From DVD's to dressing gowns.

Down one floor
Up another,
From basement buys
To roof-top highs.
Single file we tramp
To outfit me
For Christmas revelry,
Cost effectively.

Sale persons
Quake in fear
As we draw near.
They’ve seen it before.
Coming through the door
Woman towing man,
She with a gleam,
He fit to scream.
Fearing the worst,
Forbidden to curse,
They guard the racks,
Take children out the back
                                                                    Safe from a wife
Who takes husband shopping. 

Returning home,
Hearing moans,
Seeing tears,
Neighbours peer.
A husband, burdened with gear
From knees to ears.
Women cheer.
Men steer clear.

All seem to know
What I’m carrying
Is not for me,
But for she...
...Who took me shopping.

Then when Christmas comes we sing "Peace on earth, goodwill to men!"
Raymond N. & Mary E Hawkins (C) 4/12/2016