For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
There are many fallacies that are perpetuated in society that have their roots more in generalities than realities. One fallacy is that women are more romantic than men. We tend to think that it’s only women who enjoy hearing about a recent love match, but, I have noted the comments of men when they hear of their best friend’s engagement, an old pal’s forthcoming wedding or news of a new love match on the wind. Additionally, how many books, songs, poems, plays and films have been made about love and love stories… and not all are written by women? Love transcends gender barriers, race barriers, and even age barriers.
For many people these past weeks, without perhaps realising it, their thoughts have been centred around the greatest love story of all times. This love story is summed up in one verse in John’s gospel and is relevant to us all. It says:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
(John 1:14 )
Billy Graham once said “I suppose the most misused word in all the English language is the word ‘Love.’ But, you know, the whole Bible is a love story; God’s love affair with the human race.”
On that night in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, when an angel adorned the skies of earth with its beauty and its light proclaiming ‘I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people’ (Luke 2:10), the greatest love story of all times was being heralded and would soon be on display for all creation to witness.
It’s a fallacy to think that Jesus just came for sinners, just for the poor, just the needy… the greatest love story of all times, encompasses every human being of every era, on every continent.
As we stand at the threshold of a new year, let us, with great anticipation, commit ourselves to getting to know this One who wrote, produced and was the central character in the greatest love stories of all time.
A very Happy and blessed New Year to you all.
So then, welcome him (Epaphroditus) in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. (Philippians 2:29-30)
When we think of people gambling, images of casinos, betting shops and online sites come to mind. We hear stories of men and women who have lost family, friends, possessions, houses and cars as a result of gambling. However, has it ever occurred to you that, if you are walking with God, in obedience to Him, that you too are a gambler? The difference is, you are not going to lose in God’s gambling arena, you always emerge a winner.
While reading a commentary on Philippians 2, with reference to Epaphroditus who ‘risked his life’ to help Paul, the writer noted: ‘Risk is a gambler’s word. It means that Epaphroditus risked everything on the turn of the dice. He gambled his life to help Paul’.
We read of many other people who similarly ‘gambled’ their lives in order to obey God. One of these was Mary, the mother of Jesus.
In her mid-teens when she received the visitation from the Angel Gabriel, Mary had a choice to make.Luke 1:29 tells us that:
“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”
This was no ordinary messenger with no ordinary message. This message would change Mary’s life forever, if she accepted. Mary would be gambling her reputation, and even her life if she accepted this honoured position. And that’s exactly what she did.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)
In her youth, she risked everything she had ever held dear to her to become the mother of the Saviour of the world. Likewise Joseph, an upright man, risked his reputation and all his hopes for their future by taking Mary to be his wife. He accepted this gamble, taking Mary to Bethlehem with him and becoming her husband.
In the light of history, we see what blessing poured on Mary’s life, on Joseph’s life and on the lives of all mankind as consequence of their risk.
I’ve never been in a casino but I have watched the scenes in old films. A group of people are gathered round the roulette wheel. Some have placed bets; they are totally committed. The others are watching what unfolds; they are merely onlookers. If we are to know God, really know Him; if we are to walk so closely with Him so that we hear even the whisper of his voice, we have got to be willing to be totally committed, not merely an onlooker. After weighing up what God is offering us against what we could seemingly lose, we decide every time to take the ‘risk’ and obey him. It’s the safest risk we will ever take in all our lives.
This Christmas season, will you follow the example of Mary and Joseph and make a decision to take that risk that you have been putting off for so long. By following and obeying Jesus, we are winners every time.
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