Ronan Keane is the executive editor of the Activated magazine.
In John 13:35, Jesus says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”1 That doesn’t necessarily seem too hard, but for a word that we use so often, when you think about it, love is actually quite difficult to pin down. You understand it through actions. What would you be willing to do to show love to those around you?
When you think of “great” men and women, what sort of people come to mind? Many of us would list outstanding athletes, best-selling authors, favorite movie or TV actors, music artists, politicians, and so forth. That’s natural. These are the people who dominate the media, and we’re fed a constant stream of information regarding their lives, ideas, habits, and preferences.
The first verses in the first chapter of the book of Isaiah are terrifying! In them, God uses strong language to outline the many offenses of the nation of Judah, including oppression of the poor, corrupt dealings, and blood on their hands, which have led to their being estranged from Him. He says that their religious observances have become false and worthless, and their hearts are wicked and in rebellion to God; and as a result, they are being utterly and completely defeated by their enemies.
Have you ever wished you could do something that would change the world? But did you ever feel that your obscure little life would leave no mark? You have no idea how wrong you are.
We can all make a difference, every single one of us. That doesn’t mean that any of us can stop all wars, find a cure for cancer, and end all famine and poverty. But each of us can play the role God has given us to the best of our ability.
I’d venture a guess that the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk isn’t very well known nowadays, but he sure knew what it meant to trust in God no matter how badly things were going:
Psalm 91:1: He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Where is the “secret place of the Most High”? It is found in intimate fellowship with God. The phrase “shadow of the Almighty” symbolizes God’s protection. When you’re in close personal fellowship with God, you’re under His shadow, under His protection.
Many Christians who want to uphold Christ and do His work in their daily lives tend to see Him as their boss—a friendly fatherly boss, to be sure, but a boss nonetheless. He leaves instructions for them, He watches over them, He encourages and supports them, but He has an office on the top floor, and He doesn’t “get His hands dirty” in the morass of daily life.
You’ve probably heard the statement many times, “If you don’t like the weather in Whereverville, just wait a few minutes and it will change.” Having lived on several continents, I’ve heard something similar many times. There are places that enjoy a fairly constant climate year-round, but it seems like most places on earth experience a variety of weather conditions—even, as the saying illustrates, several in one day—and to me, that diversity shows an aspect of God’s personality.
I recently read an anecdote about a teacher who took her primary school students to the assembly hall to attend a presentation. As they waited at the foot of the steps leading up to the stage, she asked, “Is anybody good at jumping?”
Quite a few young hands shot up.
One of the miracles of Christmas is that even in a modern society, where you often find yourself seemingly besieged by rampant materialism, the true meaning of Christmas is never entirely lost. Even nonbelievers are moved by the symbolism of an innocent child who represents humanity’s hope and who came to earth to invite each person to reach out to God and to one another. I cannot imagine a more beautiful story.