No one can afford the price of war. One website reports 64 nations are currently involved in armed conflicts. When and how will they end? We want peace, but not at the expense of justice.
Jesus was born during a time of “peace,” but it came at the cost of heavy-handed oppression. The Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”) existed only because Rome squashed all dissent.
Seven centuries before that time of relative peace, hostile armies prepared to invade Jerusalem. From the shadow of war, God made a remarkable pronouncement. “On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned,” the prophet declared (Isa. 9:2). “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . . Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end” (vv. 6-7). Matthew tells us that Isaiah’s prophecy found fulfillment in the Christ-child (Matt. 1:22-23; see also Isa. 7:14).
We adore the tiny baby in the manger scene. Yet that helpless babe is also the Lord Almighty, “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Isa. 13:13 nlt). He will one day “reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness” (9:7). Such a regime will be no oppressive Pax Romana. It will be the reign of the Prince of Peace.
When a defendant stands before a judge, he or she is at the mercy of the court. If the defendant is innocent, the court should be a refuge. But if the defendant is guilty, we expect the court to exact punishment.
At a nature center, I watched my friend’s rosy-cheeked toddler pat the side of a large glass box. Inside the box, a bull snake named Billy slithered slowly, eyeing the little girl. Billy’s body was as thick as my forearm and he sported brown and yellow markings. Although I knew Billy could not escape from his container, seeing a menacing-looking creature so close to a small child made me shudder.
If my family ever moves from the house where we live now, I want to unhinge the pantry door and take it with me! That door is special because it shows how my children have grown over the years. Every few months, my husband and I place our children against the door and pencil a mark just above their heads. According to our growth chart, my daughter shot up 4 inches in just 1 year!
I have one of those friends who seems to be better than I am at just about everything. He is smarter; he thinks more deeply; and he knows where to find better books to read. He is even a better golfer. Spending time with him challenges me to become a better, more thoughtful person. His standard of excellence spurs me on to greater things.
The play Amadeus tells of a composer in the 18th century seeking to understand the mind of God. The devout Antonio Salieri has the earnest desire, but not the aptitude, to create immortal music. It infuriates him that God has instead lavished the greatest of musical genius ever known on the impish Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
I enjoy nature and giving praise to its Creator, but I sometimes wrongly feel guilty for admiring it too much. Then I remember that Jesus used nature as a teaching tool. To encourage people not to worry, He used simple wildflowers as an example. “Consider the lilies,” He said, and then reminded people that even though flowers do no work at all, God dresses them in splendor. His conclusion? If God clothes something temporary in such glory, He surely will do much more for us (Matt. 6:28-34).
Have you ever experienced buyer’s remorse? I have. Just prior to making a purchase, I feel the surge of excitement that comes with getting something new. After buying the item, however, a wave of remorse sometimes crashes over me. Did I really need this? Should I have spent the money?
Getting our children to look good for church was always a challenge. Ten minutes after arriving at church all spruced up, our little Matthew would look like he didn’t have parents. I’d see him running down the hall with his shirt half untucked, glasses cockeyed, shoes scuffed up, and cookie crumbs decorating his clothes. Left to himself, he was a mess.