A Faithful God in December

Last year my son died.  It’s impossible to forget; in fact I don’t even want to.  Today, he would have been alive for ten days last year; knee deep in surgeries with a host of prayer warriors across the world petitioning for a little giant who captivated us.  Today, I am in my office with only memories of that cataclysmic time.  Each day that passes I don’t exactly dwell on him, but I would be lying if I said I don’t at least stop and remember the smells and sights of the ECMO machine, the CDH issues, and the neo natal intensive care unit.  I look at my wife often throughout the day and I see her carrying our next child, due late February or early March, noticing too the toll life has thrown at us.  This time of the year brings back so much.

Each liver transplant I have had, all three, were in the throws of December.  One transplant was done on the 23rd of December, another on the 28th, and still one more in January over the course of ten years.  The one in January, however, was probably the most difficult as Kelly was pregnant with my first son, Noah, while her husband was in a walking coma for much of December and January.  And last year, my son died on December 24th.  From one perspective, December has not been kind.

But from another perspective, one in which I see but do not see, one in which is given through the eyes of faith in Jesus Christ, proves to show me that our God is faithful.  I have only to look at Abraham, through the writings of Paul, in Romans 4, to see that my God has been faithful to His children throughout the ages.  Romans 4.16, 19-21 “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent to the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all…He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

Faith is a divine gift from our Divine Father.  Abraham was given faith, and the faith that he was given was counted to him as righteousness through Jesus Christ alone as he looked forward to the promised Seed.  He believed for Christ’s righteousness and rightness, and this I do as well.  It is the reality of the gospel, the quintessential manifestation of the faithfulness of God displayed through love.  But what strikes me to the heart right now is the statement in verses 20-21, “no distrust made him waiver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

It is no secret that a host of us have been through difficult and trying times.  But as we see with eyes of faith and experience the goodness of God despite the sin in our lives, are we too fully convinced that God will do what He has promised?  And do we even know what that great promise is?  It is nothing short of full redemption from the struggles of our lives, full reconciliation to the Father through Jesus Christ, and an eternity of fullness in perfection for the rest of our existence.

This is the goodness of the Christmas season that we must continue to look upon.  Jesus Christ, in the flesh, fulfilling all righteousness where we have failed.  Despite the difficulties in our lives, despite the horrible trials of December that it has brought to many of us, we must see not the trials, but the faithfulness of December.  The perfect life, the sacrificial death, the glorious resurrection of Christ, and the gift of faith given to us by the Father elicits in our lives a righteousness not our own.  Romans 4.24-25, “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Our God is faithful, even when we are not.  Regardless, we can rest assured in the work of Christ, and proclaim from the rooftops even when tragedy strikes, that our God is faithful, even in December.

Love or Self-Love During Christmas?

Americans, and much of the world right now, has sneezed.  Out came Christmas in many forms.  From decorations, to trees in homes, lights on the outside of our houses like little beacons in the darkness, and blown up Santa Clauses riding on top of things ranging from mobile homes to motorcycles; all with moving parts.  Oh the comedy of it all.  Am I immune to this?  No.  I have a tree, I have stockings over the mantle, I have lights on the outside of the house that I put up with the fear of death.  Oh the comedy that, having gone through three liver transplants, I would cheat death on a shaky ladder by myself to hang colored lights on my roof.

I have spent more money on my wife, more money on my children, and more time thinking about these gifts than I should have.  I admit this.  But as I sit back and reflect on it all, I am convicted.  I see a reality around me that I must speak on.

God has ordered things when He created creation in such a beautiful and tangible way.  It’s not the things themselves that are evidently beautiful, but the order in which He has placed them that makes it all flow wonderfully; similar to a beautiful canvas.  By the law of creation too, there is no less order and unity among men and women; for we are the highest and cheifest manifestation of His works.  As God has molded the rest of the world into a beautiful frame by the first stamp of His finger and the first powerful Word from His mouth, so did He too engrave upon the hearts of men something that has indeed tied us together as well.  It is a perpetual bond that unites the sons and daughters of men together.

This is the law of love.  We love God, founded upon the essential dependence on and subordination of God as supremely good, and our love to each other, grounded upon our communion with each other and interest in each other as the image of God.  Christ gives us the perfect succinct version of this in Matthew 22.37-39, “And he said to them, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And the second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The love we have for God is displayed also in our love for one another.  Romans 13.10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  Or again, just a few verses before, Romans 13.8, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  But sin has cut to pieces the divine love that knit us originally together, not only with each other, but with the Lord.  Only Christ has enabled us to love freely and rightly now, as we take on His righteousness, and this is done only in faith.

Hugh Binning writes, “If the love of God and of one another had kept the throne, there had been a co-ordination and co-working of all men in their actions, for God’s glory and the common good of man.  But now, self-love having enthroned itself, every man is for himself, and strives by all means, to make a concurrence of all things to his own interest and designs.”

Our unity in love is dissolved because of sin.  Christmas is reminding me of this.  We have so much self-love in what we do.  We have turned all the realities of love back onto ourselves; we have become the center of our worship.

Now Jesus Christ, the Lord, has redeemed lost man and repaired these ruins that make up our castles, particularly restoring the fundamental law of creation and love; He alone unites us to God and to one another.  He is truly our peace and has removed the seeds of discord between God and man and between man and man.  This is the wonderful reality of 1 John 4.7-12, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might liver through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

This is the very substance of the gospel.  We love because we have been loved.  Jesus Christ, particularly during this time of remembrance of His birth, and focusing on the true Gospel of His work, should move us to stop loving ourselves and focus on loving others.

Instead of loving others during this time, are we simply loving ourselves more deeply?  What could be a viable test of this?  Is the amount of money we are spending on others?  Does that signify a self-love or a love for others?  If we give without any hope of return, perhaps to those without the ability to give, then I would argue yes, we are beginning to get it.  But test your bank accounts and see where you are spending your money this holiday season.  I say this not to condemn, but as a lovely challenge to fix our eyes on the glory of Christ, and love as He loved us.