Monday, December 31, 2007

God's Protection

Just before Christmas, I heard a blurb on the radio that caused me to really reflect on a concept I've had a lot of questions about over the years. I have no idea the point intended by the speaker, but the comment was made that young Jesus was in a very dangerous position, due to Herod's wanting to kill him and being such a wicked man that he would stoop to any evil to accomplish his purpose, i.e., killing all the baby boys under age 2...

This is of course a very familiar story and I've always known Herod was out to kill Jesus, but I saw it in a different light this time around. I know that God has a plan for my life, and I know that He is able to protect me from harm. Where things get fuzzy for me is to what level does God CHOOSE to protect -- after all, He has chosen to allow us free will. So if I pray for protection, but someone else chooses to harm me, will God intervene? CAN He intervene and still allow that other person free will?

Well, looking at this dangerous situation that Jesus Himself was in shed some light on that for me. Obviously, God's plan for Jesus did not include being killed by Herod in His toddlerhood... so that means that Mary and Joseph had nothing to worry about, right? Jesus wasn't truly in any danger because God would protect Him then in order to keep Him alive until the time had come for Him to die. Hmm... but is that really true?

Reflecting on how God chose to protect Jesus from Herod, I gained new insight into how God protects us from harm. God could have simply prevented Herod from killing Jesus through miraculous means -- but to do so would have denied Herod free will. Herod had the choice whether to kill Jesus or not, and God knew what that choice was going to be. Well, that's okay, God can just do a miracle and make Jesus invisible to Herod to protect Him, right? He could... but that's not what He did either.

God told the wisemen to take a different route home, rather than report back to Herod. They listened and obeyed. God told Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt so Herod would not find Him. Joseph listened and obeyed. I've often heard it said that perhaps the gifts from the wisemen supplied the money Joseph and Mary would need for their journey. If this is the case, God provided both the means and the directions to protect His Son from harm. He did not use His omnipotence to perform some amazing miracle -- He used people who would listen and obey.

Why were the wisemen able to hear God's direction? These men had obviously studied God's Word in depth, and trusted God, or they wouldn't have been looking for the star, understanding its meaning, and following it... What about Joseph? We know he heard God speak before, when told that Jesus was indeed God's Son and he should not divorce Mary. We aren't specifically told, but it certainly appears that Joseph too had developed a relationship with God that caused God to choose him to raise His Son in the first place, and enabled Him to hear God's voice and obey without question.

So that brings me to us... if I pray for protection from harm, should I then expect God to act any differently? Should I expect him to make me magically invisible from someone who might prey upon me, or to prevent others from doing things that would negatively affect me? Sure, He CAN do these things... but looking at the example of how He chose to protect His own Son, shouldn't we expect that He will most likely choose the same way of protecting us? Rather than preventing anyone else from sinning against us, or performing some miracle to hide or protect us, it seems from this example that God is most likely to answer our prayers for protection by giving us instructions which will take us or our loved ones out of harm's way if we will listen and obey, as Joseph and the wisemen did.

But like Joseph and the wisemen, we need to be attuned to God's voice. We can't expect to go along our merry way and ignore God except when we need to ask Him for something, and then shoot up a prayer for protection when we get into a dangerous situation and then expect to be able to hear and recognize God's voice directing us on how to get out of it. Only through developing an intimate relationship, speaking to God throughout the day, poring over His Word to hear what He has to say, can we learn to recognize the voice of God, and have faith enough to obey it even when the instructions may seem unusual.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Lord's Supper

When I was a little girl, legalism was pervasive in many churches, and ours was no different. So as a teenager, and then a young adult, sifting through all the things that "I've always been taught" and comparing them with Scripture to determine what is truly Scriptural and what is just legalism has been quite an undertaking.

On Christmas Eve, we always go to a candlelight service at church, and part of that service includes partaking of Communion, or the Lord's Supper. Now Little Girl has never lasted through an entire Christmas Eve service without having to be taken out for poor behavior. When I was her age, we sat out in church every week from the time we exited the nursery at age 3, but with the advent of Kids' Church, sitting out in "big church" just isn't something Little Girl has much practice doing.

Well, she's 5 now and I hoped that this would be the year she'd actually be able to sit quietly through the service. I commented about this to my sister, who is the one who hasn't gotten to sit through the Christmas Eve service for five years... and she said, "Well I'm going to be up with the choir this year, so she'll be your problem to deal with!" Then she added, "And there's Communion too, so good luck!" Meaning, of course, that to pass around a cracker and a grape juice for everyone and for her not to get to have one was quite likely to bring on a tantrum...

Now this was one of those things that "we were always taught", that children were not permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper until they had been saved and baptized. I remember clearly right after my own salvation when I was nearly 6, the excitement that NOW I would get to take Communion!

Now, the Lord's Supper is pretty serious business, and as an adult, I understand a lot more about just how important it is to be sure your heart is right when participating in this ordinance. However, it occurred to me this year after my sister's comment that as far as children not partaking -- well, that isn't Scriptural. Nowhere does it say children should not be permitted to participate until they have accepted Christ... so I began thinking more on this subject.

Jesus and his disciples were celebrating Passover, and it is one small part of the Seder meal that Jesus then establishes as something we are to do in remembrance of Him. So the Lord's Supper has its roots in the Passover meal, and children always participated in the Passover celebration. In fact, the Passover meal is used to teach children about the wonderful things God did for His people. Should not then the Lord's Supper be used for the same purpose? Shouldn't young children be allowed to participate, and the experience be used to teach them what Jesus has done for them?

The more I thought about it, the more certain I became that Little Girl should indeed participate -- but not merely to avoid her throwing a tantrum and to give her a cracker and grape juice, but to teach her the significance of what we are doing. And after all, this is a little girl who loves Jesus, despite not having made an official "salvation decision" due to her young age. So after discussing my thoughts with her mother, that's exactly what we did.

Christmas Eve afternoon, I sat down with Little Girl and her Beginners Bible, and started to read, from the birth of Baby Jesus right up through his life, and then the story about the Last Supper. As I read, I talked to her about how we were going to do this at church, and how it was a very special thing that she was going to get to do to remember Jesus. We read on about his death and resurrection, and talked about how the broken bread/cracker reminds us of Jesus' body being broken on the cross, and how the grape juice (wine) represents His blood. "But it's not REALLY blood, it's just grape juice," Little Girl said. :)

And so we went to church, and the Christmas Eve service began. I came armed with crayons and paper in the hopes that this would keep Little Girl quiet, and with no suggestion of what to draw, she promptly drew these two pictures.

When it came time to take Communion, I whispered reminders and questions to her as we proceeded through it to make sure she remembered the significance, and she certainly did. After it was over -- well, after declaring, "YUM! I want more!" -- she got another sheet of paper and drew this picture:

She then whispered to me that that was me, her, and Jesus in the picture having Communion together.

I have a feeling she partook of Communion with more understanding and a righter heart than did some of those saved and baptized adults present...

It was a beautiful thing, to teach and to watch and to realize she really gets it.

My mom said afterward that when my cousin was little, she cried in church once because her parents wouldn't let her take Communion, and my grandfather was furious about it. He told them Jesus would rebuke them like He did the disciples, and say to let the little children come to me. What a wise man he was.

Little Girl was his greatest joy in his last years of life. After hearing that story from my mother, I can just imagine him looking down from heaven at Little Girl observing her first communion, and smiling proudly at us all. :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

I have had so many things I've wanted to blog about, and just never have the time!! I'll try to get them all out in the next few days, so this blog may actually have some activity for awhile.

For starters, Merry Christmas! It was a nice one here, Little Girl got some really nice gifts (meaning, instead of a bunch of junky toys, she got some nice things she'll really get a lot of use out of) and Baby Boy had so much fun opening gifts and dancing to the Christmas music. Her favorite (and mine!) were her "Little House" Lincoln Logs, as she calls them... now she can build a log cabin and have a wagon and horses and Ma and Pa to go with them -- but she wants a Mary and Laura too, and I've no idea where we'll find figures so small to play the part... but we shall try.

My favorite gift for myself was a copy of These Happy Golden Years. Not just any copy, mind you, but a Sewell-illustrated edition -- meaning pre-1953. Oh, but not just a Sewell, I have several of those after all, nice but not that big of a deal. But an AUTOGRAPHED copy. Yes indeed, my brother who has complained for years about how everything has to be about Laura went out looking for an autographed copy of one of her books. Now how's THAT for a merry Christmas? :)

Merry Christmas, one and all...