Monthly Archives: December 2021

2021 In Review: God Is In Control; I Am Not

2021 is coming to a close. Perhaps you are making New Year’s resolutions. I usually joke about them. On December 30, 2009, my Facebook status announced, “26 hours to accomplish the resolutions I made last New Year’s Day. I give up.” Another year, I made a New Year’s resolution to complete writing a book and have it published by the end of the year. It still has not happened. The best-laid plans of mice, men, and Michael often go awry. Often, the unexpected interrupts everything we planned to do.

Photo from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/745052. Creative Commons.

Nowadays, I usually just tell people that my New Year’s resolution is to avoid making New Year’s resolutions. That way, I can fail and succeed at the same time.

However, like most people, I usually approach the New Year with some hopes and goals, even if I do not call them “resolutions.” It seems like a good time to look back at the past year, see where you have been, and decide in which direction you want your life to go. We can always choose a time for self-reflection, to seek God’s direction for the future. For most people, January 1 seems like a good time to do this.

Many have not seen our hopes for 2021 fulfilled. We thought this would be the year that the COVID-19 pandemic would end so that life could return to normal. Many people thought the vaccines would end the pandemic. Instead, we are seeing record-breaking numbers of new cases emerge. Thank God, fewer people are dying, but people are still getting sick. Local and state governments are still issuing mask mandates. Nobody expected the omicron variant. Despite people’s best efforts, widespread availability of vaccines, and government mandates, the pandemic continues. There are some things that human ingenuity cannot control.

As 2020 ended, Darkened Glass Reflections was enjoying new records for the number of visits each month. Some time in mid-2020, I read a blog post or article that said that it might be worthwhile to collect ad revenue on a blog when it starts getting a few thousand “hits” per month. DGR started accumulating over 1000 hits every month in mid-2020, and the numbers kept growing. I expected this blog to continue to grow throughout the year, perhaps reaching that “next level.” All I had to do was keep writing, do what I could to share and promote the blog, and expect it to continue to grow.

Then life got in the way—or, should I say, death. I can usually find time to write during most of the year, with only a brief slowdown during the summer. My wife and I usually travel to Missouri, where we visit with my son and his family. For about two weeks, I focus on my family and do not have time to write. The weeks before and after do not allow much time for blogging either. Some years, I re-post favorite older articles for a month instead of writing new material.

However, this year, life did not return to “normal” after our July road trip. My son planned to bring the family to Florida to visit my mother shortly after our visit. However, as COVID numbers spiked in her area, she urged them not to come. So instead, they visited us in New York (my son’s first visit to New York since before his wedding, and the first visit for his wife and children). During that visit, Mom became ill and was rushed to the hospital. Kidney problems and other long-term issues had taken their toll on her.

So, between July and mid-November, my wife and I were either traveling to Missouri (once) or Florida (three times), hosting family from out of state, or preparing for one of those visits.

Despite every effort, Mom passed away in November, approximately 24 hours after beginning home hospice care.

Needless to say, this did not affect only my writing. Pretty much every aspect of my life (as well as the lives of my wife, siblings, their spouses, and other family members) was turned upside down. I mention the blog mainly because it was one “measurable” part of my life that suffered.

Perhaps the big lesson from 2021 is that many things are beyond our control. We like to think we can solve our problems. Sometimes, we cannot. Humanity is powerless to stop a microscopic organism from causing havoc on our world. We are all essentially powerless over life and death. We are barely able to maintain control over how we manage our time. Life and problems—some mere annoyances, some life-altering crises—affect us all.

So, if 2021 has taught me anything, it is that we are not in control. However, God is. Perhaps, if I must make a 2022 New Year’s resolution, it is to let God be God and trust Him in all things. I cannot control the circumstances life will throw at me. I can only choose to be obedient to Him and allow Him to decide what “success” looks like.

It may not be a measurable goal like “publish one book,” “lose 20 pounds,” or “exercise for one hour three times each week.” However, this open-ended commitment is the only one any of us can truly make. Circumstances may force us to change our plans day by day, but we can always choose to remain faithful to God.

What lessons have you learned about God and life in 2021 that will shape 2022? Please share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christian Life, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christ Meets Us in the Mundane (Micah 5:2)

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).

“Adoration of the Shepherds,” by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God could operate from a position of power, but often He does not. He frequently finds a way to accomplish His goals by using the most insignificant, unlikely, unimpressive people and circumstances.

When the ancient Israelites requested a king, God initially chose Saul, a “nobody” from the most insignificant tribe in Israel.

When Saul disobeyed God, He replaced him with David—a ruddy “pretty-boy” shepherd from a small town in Judah. Once again, God chose a nobody to accomplish His goals.

When God became man, He could have chosen to be an earthly king. He had already promised to bless the nations of the world through the descendants of Abraham. So, instead of being born as an earthly emperor in Rome, God came to Judea—an insignificant nation within the Roman empire.

God did not even choose to be born to a prominent Jewish family. Sure, He was born into royal blood—as a descendant of David—but his family was a lesser branch of the royal family tree. Instead of noble power-brokers who rubbed shoulders with the elite in Jerusalem, Jesus’ mother and stepfather were poor folks who struggled to survive.

Photo taken by Michael E. Lynch at RXR Plaza, Uniondale, NY, December 17, 2016.

Perhaps this tells us something about what Jesus valued. He could have chosen to cling to any of His divine qualities. He could have decided to live a life of earthly power and authority that reflected His divine sovereignty. He could have chosen the life of a scribe or Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, flaunting earthly wisdom and education as a shadow of His divine omniscience (all-knowing).

Instead, if there was any divine attribute He chose to reflect for His earthly life, it was His role as Creator. He spent His first 30 earthly years as a carpenter: designing, building, and creating things.

At any rate, He did not choose the world’s ways to save humanity. He did not seek earthly power, prestige, or riches. He did not seek a comfortable life. He came to a tiny town, to an insignificant family, doing a job that gained neither wealth nor a chapter in the history books. While it was not the worldly way to influence people and change the world, though, it was His Father’s way to change the world.

On Christmas, we celebrate a King who was born in a stable, slept in a manger, spent almost His entire life in a country the size of New Jersey, and was brutally tortured and executed. This is not the way people would choose to change the world. We might try to use strength and power to change the world. Jesus chose love, humility, and obedience to His Father’s will.

He met us in the most mundane moments of life. This truth is lost in our Christmas celebration, with the flashing lights, shiny decorations, and feel-good television specials. We seek to find Him in the exciting moments, but He comes to meet us, and calls us to follow Him, in the ordinary moments of life. May this Christmas draw our hearts beyond the celebration and pageantry to the power of an ordinary life saturated with Christ’s presence.

May God bless you and those you love both during your Christmas celebration and throughout the coming year. May the love of God and presence of Jesus in your life bring joy and peace throughout the coming year.

Feel free to share your thoughts about Christ’s birth and Christmas by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, Holidays | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Divine Name That Says a Lot (Isaiah 9:6-7)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

“Adoration of the Shepherds,” by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

We wait expectantly. With Christmas less than a week away, children await the coming of Santa Claus. Older children and adults await the holiday celebrations, the presents, and the family gatherings. Some are just waiting for the intense activity to end. We are all looking forward to something.

The ancient Jews also waited expectantly. More than 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of a Messiah who would save Israel. After centuries of exile, followed by domination by the global empires of Greece and Rome, the Jewish people were eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises and their hopes and dreams.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus fulfilled two prophetic names in chapters 7 and 9 of Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14 foretold the birth of a child known as “Immanuel,” meaning “God-with-us”:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Matthew 1:22-23 tells us that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when He was born to His virgin mother, Mary. When Jesus was conceived in her womb, God joined us; Jesus was fully human, yet fully divine. God was with humanity in the flesh and, He lived His life as one of us.

Isaiah 9:6 gives another name for the coming Messianic king from the line of David: “Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom,” translated as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” in the NASB. This long name says a lot. [“Abi-ad” can be translated either as “Eternal Father” or “my Father is (the) eternal (one).” This verse does not contradict the historic Christian belief that God the Father and God the Son are distinct Persons within the Trinity.]

This name describes the God we worship. This is the essence of Who Jesus is and what He means to us. Although no New Testament passage explicitly says that Isaiah 9:6-7 is about Jesus, chapters 1 and 2 of Luke mention several of these attributes when reporting His birth.

He is a Wonderful (marvelous, miraculous) Counselor or guide. We can come to Him with our doubts, fears, uncertainty, worries, etc. His wisdom is beyond our comprehension. He will lead and guide us.

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

He is the Mighty God of infinite strength and power. He created all things. No problem or circumstance is beyond His control. Martin Luther translated this phrase as “Held,” or in English “hero.” Pick your favorite superhero: Superman, Captain Marvel, Spider-man, etc. Their superpowers are no match for the power of our Mighty God, Jesus Christ.

Our God is the Eternal Father. He has always been, and He will always be. He will always love and preserve us. Jesus told His disciples, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He will not leave; He will not quit; He will not cease to exist. He is alive forever, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Finally, Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Biblical peace—shalom in Hebrew—is not the absence of war or hardship. It is the presence of God amid hard times. No matter what comes, God is with us. Jesus brings His peace into our hearts and minds as we put our trust in Him.

God’s answer to the turmoil of ancient Israel and the oppression of first-century Jews was the birth of a child. The answer to all of mankind’s hopes and the Savior of humanity came as a child, died as a man, but lives as both God and man, as God with us always. He brings us His wonderful counsel, infinite power and might, everlasting Fatherly love, and His peace that surpasses all comprehension. I pray that you may experience His presence not just around Christmas but throughout the year.

Which prophetic name of Christ is most meaningful to you? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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