Today I am re-sharing a poem last posted in January. While it would make a great New Year’s Day post, its point is relevant every day, every hour, and every moment we may need it. God’s grace is available to us at all times, because God is always faithful, as Lamentations 3:22-24 says:
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
I first heard this poem years ago, recently remembered it, and found it online eventually. The title is “A New Leaf”, author unknown, and compares a child/teacher relationship to us and Jesus. His mercies are new every morning and every day, not just on special occasions. God wants everyone to turn to Him at all times. Don’t wait until New Year’s Day.
“A New Leaf”
“He came to my desk with a quivering lip, the lesson was done. ‘Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher? I’ve spoiled this one.’ I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted and gave him a new one all unspotted. And into his tired heart I cried, ‘Do better now, my child.’
I went to the throne with a trembling heart; the day was done. ‘Have you a new day for me, dear Master? I’ve spoiled this one.’ He took my day, all soiled and blotted and gave me a new one all unspotted. And into my tired heart he cried, ‘Do better now, my child.'”
Over recent weekends, I’ve described Jesus as filling our need for a Wonderful Counselor, guiding us into the choices that are best for us, as Mighty God, empowering us to love Him and to love our neighbor as ourselves, and as Everlasting Father, who meets our need for relationship in His holy family. These names come from from Isaiah 9:6, a prophecy from around 700 BC concerning the Christ we celebrate each Christmas:
“And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
We may not feel we deserve the gifts in Christ I’ve described in these posts. We may know for sure that we don’t, and so we don’t accept them. As James Boice wrote: “We are also conscious of having done wrong things. We need to be forgiven. We need somebody to deal with our guilt”. Which is why there needs to be a fourth name, and gift. Our need for peace and unity is met by the Christ of Christmas, as described in Isaiah 9:6 as our Prince of Peace, who Boice says “highlights the gifts of peace both between ourselves and God and internally.”
What kind of peace? Most of the New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek, and the word “peace” often comes from a Greek word meaning “to join.” Peace does not just mean we aren’t fighting; it means that we are joined in a beneficial relationship. This peace came at a steep cost, but He bore it all.
Jesus was born to live the perfect life so that we won’t have to earn His approval, and He was destined to die as payment so we may have peace. He did not have to rescue His people. He could have left this world without a Savior, but as Prince of Peace, He instead took the initiative of joining us to Himself and to each other. Our failures are not ignored, but our Prince of Peace willingly takes these failures upon Himself. This is what He was born in the famous manger of Christmas to do.
Consider the story of Good Friday: Hours passed while Christ was on the cross. He was mocked as helpless and unable to save Himself, while knowing that at any moment, He could just save Himself. In those hours, our Prince of Peace considered all the sins of His people and decided: “Worth it”. The all-powerful actively chose to embrace powerlessness in the face of hours of torture to save His people. If God wanted to change His mind about you, He’s had plenty of opportunity before now. He will not turn His back on you now, or ever, if you have accepted Him.
By bearing the cost for us, our Prince of Peace can accept us into His eternal family. He can empower us to live lives like His, of love and sacrifice for others, giving meaning to our lives. He can open our minds to His wisdom, providing the ability to make better decisions. It won’t happen instantly, but it can begin today. He was born on Christmas to make sure this all happened.
This Christmas Eve, we have the gift of Jesus as Prince of Peace, who meets one of our deepest needs: “To be forgiven and at peace! Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He has made peace for us by his death.” (Boice)
He gives us peace with God, within ourselves, and toward others, granting us forgiveness and overcoming our guilt. He asks us to also take the initiative and bring His peace to others, forgiving them as He forgave us.
This is the fourth gift of Christ in Christmas, and it makes possible all of the other gifts. Have you accepted it?
Peter is one of the most fascinating characters in the New Testament. His struggles and flaws are written for all to see, but so is the patience and love Jesus had for him. In Peter’s two letters, we get to see examples of his growth and maturity. One of Peter’s struggles was how Jews who had become Christian should treat Gentiles. In Galatians 2:11-21 is a story of Paul rebuking Peter for his hypocrisy toward Gentiles, and in Acts 10 and 11 is a story of Peter receiving a vision from heaven telling him not to treat Gentiles as unclean, because God can make anyone clean.
In 1 Peter 2:9-10, he shares this lesson with his readers:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (emphasis mine)
The bolded words clearly call back to the story of the Old Testament prophet Hosea, who God told to marry a prostitute named Gomer to teach a lesson about idolatry. Hosea’s children by Gomer are named in Hosea 1:6-9 –
“She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, ‘Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.’ When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the LORD said, ‘Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.’” (emphasis mine)
As Peter grew in Christ, he learned the same lesson Hosea learned: that all of God’s people are like Gomer and her children: once estranged from God in spiritual prostitution and adultery, but now a beloved people, betrothed to one faithful God. Jesus, our Holy High Priest, made the necessary sacrifice for the salvation of anyone and everyone who will come to Him. Those He saves join His “royal priesthood”, proclaiming His excellent work to all people who have not received mercy, but who His blood covers.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:1-2
When we read Matthew 24:13 – “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” – what do we think of? I’m currently reading a book about the life of Queen Elizabeth I of England that focuses on her life before becoming Queen, and there is a lot that reminds me of Matthew 24:9-10, which says, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.” Elizabeth’s older sister Mary, a Catholic, pursued often violent methods to purge the country of Protestantism, as chronicled in the sensational book, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which soon became the 2nd most-read book in England after the Bible. John Foxe listed story after story of Protestants being tortured, burned alive, and persecuted in other extreme ways that sometimes are what we think of reading Matthew 24:13.
But there is more to the context than that. Matthew 24:11-12 say, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” This idea of love growing cold is immediately before “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” In a martyrdom scenario, enduring is not the same as living, so enduring means something other than staying alive. So, what does a Christian endure in order to be saved?
When Jesus was on the cross and said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” in Luke 23:34 I believe He was modeling this endurance. On the cross, the lawlessness of the world had increased to the point where God Himself was abandoned and killed by a populist mob, fueled by a conspiracy of religious and political leaders. All of Christ’s followers were scattered like sheep without a shepherd, yet He continued to love. Yet, instead of calling upon an army of angels and freeing Himself from the cross, He forgave.
Matthew quotes Jesus as saying that while lawlessness is increasing, “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” Jesus said in Matthew 24:6 that “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” In opposition to this, false prophets will tell us to be alarmed and they will tell us that there is so much lawlessness that we need to do something other than love God and love our neighbor. Some of these prophets will claim to be the Christ (Matthew 24:5), but they will insist on a path other than that of the cross. Perhaps using a Facebook post fed through a heartless algorithm, they will say “The time is coming when good people will have to do bad things to very bad people,” even though Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Repeating yesterday’s post, when I’m struggling to face the world as I see it, I ask about 3:16, “Exactly which world did Jesus love enough to die for?” The answer is this one. Not just the part of it I get along with or that I’d pick to be in my Facebook feed if I had full control. Sometimes bearing our cross is just being willing to love those Christ loved, even when we don’t want to, and even when they hate us as they hated Him.
Praise God that Christ loved me, because I too easily find people I’d really prefer to stay away from, but if Christ had taken that approach, maybe He would have never come down to earth to die for me.
Father, forgive us, for we do not know what we do. We praise You that You endured to the end for our sake.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32
 At other times and places, Protestants have persecuted Catholics, or each group has fought among themselves. This is only one example among (sadly) many.  I’m planning a history post for next March 20, the first publication date of this book in 1563.
Today’s Rewind Wednesday takes a quote I posted last year (do you know which one?), adds four more, and creates another “Quint of Quotes.” These quints are five quotes somewhat related to each other, but not exactly in agreement. Hope you find them interesting and thought-provoking. Enjoy!
“You can have vengeance, or peace, but you can’t have both” – Herbert Hoover, after World War II
“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” -Malachy McCourt, Irish-American actor, writer and politician
“Forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performs. It meets the greatest need; it costs the greatest price; and it brings the greatest blessing and the most lasting results.” – Warren Wiersbe
“In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior.” – Francis Bacon
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” – Jesus, in Luke 6:32-33
See previous Quints and other posts on quotes here.