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Alpha Ministries, Inc

Church in the Woods at ....

Freedom Ranch

Choices

Dear Saints,

All of us are confronted with a multitude of choices to make daily. Many of them seem small and almost inconsequential while others seem overwhelming and life threatening. What makes life so complicated and hard is not just the choices we make but often it seems we really have no choice at all. Much of our confusion and frustration in life comes from the fact that we are not sure what choices we have, if we even have a choice, and exactly what choice we should make in any given situation. Welcome to the world of a control freak!

Seeking to control the people and circumstances in our life comes from a deep need to make ourselves secure in an insecure world. There is no guarantee that we will be unconditionally loved, accepted, and forgiven in this dog-eat-dog and often hostile world. In fact, chances are that we will be neglected, abandoned, or even abused. Likewise, unless we can control the people and circumstances in the chaos of this world it is impossible to find a real sense of importance, purpose, and competence. Wrong or bad choices seem naturally to lead to a meaningless and unsatisfying life.

Underlying all other choices we must make is the most important and basic choice. It is the choice the Bible urges us to make daily and describes it in a variety of terms. Jesus invites us to take his “yoke” upon us (Matthew 11: 28-30). Paul urges us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God” (Romans 12: 1-2). James tells us to ask for wisdom from above (James 1: 5). Peter calls on us to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5: 6). All these directives (and many more) have one thing in common…surrender. We give up trying to make it happen and let God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In the AA program of recovery the 3rd step describes this kind of surrender as deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Making the choice to surrender all our decisions as well as our very lives to the control and care of God is the foundation and start of a new and satisfying lifestyle of grace in which God, through his indwelling Spirit, leads us, guides us into all truth, comforts us in our choices, reminds us who we are, and produces the very character of Christ in us. As Paul instructed the Philippians 2: 12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. “

The fundamental choice we all must make each day is whether we want to let God control our lives. It is really a no-brainer since he is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe and loves us so much he gave his life for us. For me it boils down to one simple prayer each morning, “Lord please remind me of who you made me to be in your son and guide me in how you want me to love others around me today”. I really do not have any other choice that makes sense.

John

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Peace on Earth

Posted on 9 December, 2020 at 11:20

Dear Saints,

 

As we approach the Christmas season, I’m a little confused by the angelic message given to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born. In Luke 2: 8-15 we have the story of an angel appearing to some lowly shepherds and announcing, “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people”. The angel further explains the “good tidings” as the nearby birth of a savior he calls Christ (the Messiah) who is the Lord. After telling them they could identify this savior as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger there suddenly appeared an entire army of angels praising God with him saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

 

The King James translation of their praise is what confuses me because it seems to imply that the birth of Jesus would glorify God in heaven and bring peace and goodwill on earth. The glory to God in heaven part I understand, but where is the peace and goodwill toward men on earth? Maybe it’s just that we have higher expectations during the Christmas season, but there seems to be more conflict, suffering, and violence during the holidays than other times of the year. The “good tidings” seems to lose some of it’s “great joy to all people” when we correlate the increase of social ills with the Christmas season.

 

A literal translation of the angelic praise, however, both lowers my expectations for the season and eliminates my confusion and disappointment. A better translation of verse 14 would be, “Glory to God in heaven and on earth peace toward men of goodwill.” The phrase “men of goodwill” can also be interpreted as men in whom God is well pleased. This translation makes more sense to me considering the historical conflicts and violence since the birth of Jesus. In fact, his birth caused an increase in conflict in the spirit realm which spilled over to the political realm as the puppet king, Herod, sought to kill the child. Jesus himself said that his coming into the world would cause conflict even in the social and family realm.

 

The miraculous birth of our savior glorified God in heaven by displaying his true character of love. For the Creator to take the form of his created beings so that he could personally demonstrate his love for them is amazing love. To so identify with fallen humanity as to be born of a woman and experience this life with all its conflicts and sorrows is a love beyond our comprehension. Truly, God was glorified in the highest heaven for all to behold. And the effect of such love on earth was not the removal of conflict and violence but the peace of God that passes all understanding when “men of goodwill” receive his love. In the midst of all the turmoil, conflicts, and sorrows the peace on earth will be within those who have received by faith the love of God through Jesus.

The only time we will see peace on earth is when the Prince of Peace establishes his kingdom as he promised he would do. That kingdom will be established by Jesus when he comes again into this world. His first coming was as a suffering savior, but his second coming will be as a conquering king. Although the complete fulfillment of that promise is yet to come, he graciously gives us inner peace here and now as we believe on him. This “peace on earth toward men of goodwill” is good news to all who live in a fallen world of conflict and violence as they trust that babe in a manger as the Lord of all.

 

John

 

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