Tag Archives: God

The Savior is Born

Today’s reading: Esther 1-2; Matthew 1; Luke 3.

Today we get to read the beginning of the Christmas story, because the organizers of the reading plan wanted to put it in its most significant place in the reading of Revelation: right before the allegory of the woman and the dragon. Our church down here in Florida just recently finished their Children’s Christmas play, which I watched because, of course, my daughter was in it ūüôā It focused on dispelling some particular myths surrounding the traditional “Christmas story”: the fact that there could’ve been more than 3 wise men (we’re told how many gifts there were, the number of wise men is just tradition), the angels “singing” (the Bible actually just says that they “said” “Glory to God in the highest heaven,¬†and on earth peace¬†to those on whom his favor rests.”). However, it came back to emphasizing that the important part of Christmas isn’t these minor details that aren’t recorded for us, but the fact that God came down to become a man and to live among us.

As the production stated, we don’t know for sure that December 25th was “Jesus’ birthday”. I was struck by the significance of the fact that we have no idea what day Jesus was born: in fact, scholars argue about what year it even was. It emphasizes the obscurity that God chose to introduce Himself into the world. People challenge God by saying, “if He exists, why doesn’t He make Himself plainly visible?”: the fact is, even when He did come to earth, He didn’t make a big fuss. That’s not His style (at least, at this stage in history. Things change when we get to His second coming). I’m amazed by His humility, to come in such a way that His birth (probably the most earth-altering event that had ever happened up to that time) went unrecorded and almost completely unheralded, except to a few smelly herdsmen outside the city.

Think about it: if you had no Christmas story and were just writing a novel: making up a story in your head about God coming to earth, how would you have it happen? I would probably have Him spontaneously appear in the desert, a handsome, mysterious, muscular 25 years old, perfect in beauty, ready to conquer the thrones of the world. Maybe He would take advantage of a natural disaster: step out of a tornado that destroyed the White House, or a crack in the earth that swallowed up the Kremlin or something. Maybe He would descend from the sky in a shining,¬†iridescent ball, like the witch of the North in Wizard of Oz. Nobody could make up the Christmas story that God’s given us: it’s too mundane, too common.¬†If we hadn’t heard it all our lives, we wouldn’t accept it as real. Why would God be content with such humility and obscurity?

Let’s remember: He accepts those who come to Him: He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. Let’s consciously seek Him out this season.


Our Faith

Today’s reading: Ezra 3-4; 1 John 5.

1 John 5:4 “This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.” In all the battle between God and the ponderous dragging weight of our sin nature, this is the greatest victory that can be achieved: not great things that we strive to accomplish, not impressive sacrifices that demonstrate a depth of devotion, not anything like that. The greatest victory God has ever won over the pull of the world system in my life is seemingly the simplest, perhaps the most basic: my faith in Him. That is the point at which the world system around me tries to attack every day, in every way that it can. That is the one point that Satan most hates and that he tries to weaken at every opportunity. But it is one aspect of my resistance to the pull of the world that is fully in my control: whatever happens, I choose to have faith in God and in His goodness.

Every time that things go wrong and you choose, instead of becoming bitter and angry at God, to trust that He knows what He’s doing and must have some plan behind it all, that is the victory that has conquered the world. Every time that common sense screams at you not to take the chance and risk comfort or security for something you feel moved by God to do, but you choose to ignore that common sense and trust God that He will look out for you, that is the victory that has conquered the world. Every time you choose to view the future, even the future after death, with something other than worry and uncertainty, and choose to “store up your treasures in heaven”, and not in this life, that is the victory that has conquered the world. These small decisions aren’t as impressive as doctoral degrees, or as concrete as financial empires, but they are the stuff that victory in God’s kingdom is made of. This is the victory God has called us to. Have faith in Him, and let Him win the battles for us.

God is with us!

Today’s reading: Psalm 137; Ezekiel 1-2; 1 Timothy 2.

“On the fifth of the month‚ÄĒit was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin‚ÄĒ¬†the word of the¬†Lord¬†came to Ezekiel¬†the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.¬†There the hand of the¬†Lord¬†was on him.” ~ Ezekiel 1:2-3

I’ve read the Bible most of my life, so I tend to read over familiar stories quickly. It’s hard to stop, concentrate, and realize the full significance of something I’ve read several times before.¬†Ezekiel starts the same way that Jeremiah does, and Isaiah 6 has a similar vision, etc. Another vision; skip past it and get to the prophecies, I was subconsciously thinking. Suddenly I stopped, and was struck by the significance of how the book of Ezekiel starts, and what it must’ve meant to Ezekiel when it happened.

You see, the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin was after Israel’s first deportation: Babylon had invaded once, taken the cream of the crop of Israel’s nobility and intelligentsia, and left most of the population under a weak, inferior government ruled by a puppet king Zedekiah. It was only after that puppet king rebelled (6 years after this vision of Ezekiel’s) that Jerusalem was burned to the ground, and all its people were deported and Israel ceased to exist as a state anymore. Ezekiel, as one of the priests, was part of the “cream of the crop” taken in this first deportation. As a priest, he was very conscious of this deportation as a result of God’s judgement on Israel’s sin, and the priests’ role in Israel’s moral decay over time. It must’ve been a sobering, depressing time for him: 5 years of constant reminders that Israel was likely never going to be the same, and that his family and other fellow priests were responsible (certainly not solely responsible, but at least partially) for this calamity. Here he is in a foreign land, surrounded by idols, speaking a strange language, ruled by a harsh, alien law, humiliated, discriminated against and uncertain what the future would hold.If there was ever someone who felt like God had abandoned him and would never be there for him again, it would’ve been Ezekiel. And then, imagine his amazement to see “visions of God” even here, where he never would’ve expected that God would show up! By the banks of a river thousands of miles away from the temple of God he’s amazed to find that God meets him even there, with a breathtaking vision of awe and majesty.

Have you ever failed God? Have you ever felt like you’re banished to an uncomfortable, impossible land where you don’t know the rules and have no hope for the future anymore? Has a dream ever been pulled out from under you, and you don’t understand why? Ezekiel felt each of these, and yet God was there with him, and still had a job for him. God hadn’t given up on him, and He hasn’t given up on you, no matter where you are or what you have done. He is with us! I found this very encouraging this morning, and I hope you do, too.

Lessons from history

Don’t regret the past just learn from it

Today’s readings:

1 Chronicles 16; Psalm 42, 44; 1 Corinthians 10:1-18

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Today’s readings all have to do with looking at the past; either praising God for how He’s been faithful in it, or reflecting on what we’ve learned NOT to do. I’m not very old yet, but I can say that I already have plenty of both from my own life.

I suspect each of us could make a¬†lengthy¬†list of items from our past that we can praise God for: ways He’s been there when we needed Him, ways He’s worked in our lives in situations we thought were hopeless, and lessons He’s taught us. I suspect also we could make a similar lengthy list of choices we’ve made that, in retrospect, we wish we’d done differently. I’ve tried to live my life to have “no regrets”, but I have to admit that I haven’t been successful. As much as I’ve consciously tried to make wise decisions at every fork in the road, in retrospect I can attest that it’s impossible. I think a certain amount of regret, or at least self-doubt, is an inevitable part of growing wiser with age.

The good news is that we don’t have to make all the mistakes ourselves: very effective lessons can be learned by learning from others’ mistakes. I’m always trying to quietly analyze situations people around me are in to see if I can learn lessons from them, either positive or negative. The story of Israel is full of both. Even in our day God has preserved the Jewish people and the nation of Israel through perils that should’ve rendered them extinct as a race and as a nation long ago. He has been incredibly merciful and protective of them. In the more ancient history we read about in the Bible, God has been amazingly faithful and merciful to Israel as they were alternately obedient and then, far too often, disobedient to Him. He does the same for us, as a loving parent. Think over how God has given you lessons to learn through your life, and what lessons you can pass on to others from your experiences.

Down On The Farm

Have you ever looked into your childhood and cherished an event that as a child you took for granted? For example there are many times that I spent on my grandparents’ farm that were exciting for me. I remember going for long walks in fields along creeks. I remember taking the time to pause and skip rocks or even wade through the water. I had fun climbing hay bails in the pastures on a warm spring day. I can recall jumping from bail to bail with my cousins as we had races or played an altered version of King of the Hill.

The times that I took for granted were the moments that I spent the night with my grandparents at their home. In the morning I always awoke to the sound of the rooster crowing. That sound signaled me that it was time to start shaking off my sleepiness and head from my second floor guest bed to the main floor kitchen. Grandma was usually making something mouth-watering like bacon and eggs with fresh marmalade for toast. I liked to help set the table and get the large jar of milk from the refrigerator. The milk was fresh from the cow and I remember how that milk tasted distinctly different from our store-bought milk from my house. And speaking of different tastes, let’s talk about the butter for the toast. Real butter that was churned at the farmhouse. My sister and I were never morning people so conversation around the breakfast table was slim. However, I remember that we would pray and begin eating after grandpa came back from his morning chores. After grandma finished eating, she would take out her Bible and daily devotional book. This is the part that was taken for granted. As a kid you hoped that the adult talk would get over with quickly so that you could get outside and play before the sun decided to go down. I didn’t realize at the time that I was witnessing grandma and grandpa’s faith at work. They had lived through many trial and situations in life and through inspection of the scriptures and trials of life they found that the account of Christ to be real. Time with God in the morning was not an option for these two believers.

Later in life I was reminded to take into account their faith as I witnessed my grandfather in a nursing home. Grandpa had been in an auto accident with a semi which left his right side paralyzed. Grandma in her older age was not able to care for him and sorrowfully was forced to put him in the nursing home. The moment that I saw was their evening ritual. Grandma never missed a beat to visit grandpa in the evening so that they could pray together. They asked for privacy during this time. The rest of the family would wait outside in the hallway while you could hear mumbled prayers being said to God. If you denied that the mumbling was a need for privacy between two saints still in love or just chit-chat, there was no mistaking the next part of the nightly ritual. As clear as day one could hear the reciting of the Lord’s prayer in the hallway.

At the beginning of our reading in Luke today the author, Luke, is setting up his written work for his friend Theophilus. Luke’s account of the life of Christ is unique because it isn’t created by a person that actually witnessed the events of Christ’s life. Instead Luke carefully examined the stories and writings of eyewitnesses to put together his gospel. What was the purpose of his laborious research? Luke wants his friend to know beyond all doubt that Christ was the Savior. Theophilus needed to know that what he was being taught about Christ was reliable.

The thrilling idea to me at this moment is that I too have eyewitness accounts that have been recorded and preserved through the Holy Spirit inside the Scriptures. It is great to realize that the feeding of the five thousand was witnessed by men, recorded in the Bible, and given to me to help my faith that Christ is the Lord. I didn’t receive a letter directly from Luke but I have lived my life beside friends, grandparents, parents, and others that have searched the Bible and other types of thought to find that the teachings of the Bible are truth.

The pondering that this short introduction builds in me is wondering if others see this excitement that I have from my faith. Do people see my faith as real or as a ritual that I must perform weekly? Will my children look back on their childhood and be proud of their father that strove to walk out his faith? Is my life showing signs of my faith in Christ or is it merely showing signs of what TV shows I enjoy watching?

Day # 77: Prove Yourself

Today’s Reading

Numbers 20-22 & Mark 15:26-47

The 20th chapter of Numbers begins with one of the most memorable complaints of the children of Isreal. Why did you bring us out here to die? “No water, no grain, no visible hope for survival” was the words use to taunt Moses and Aaron. As I read the 21st chapter of Numbers around the fifth verse, the children of Isreal started complaining about food and drink again. This demand they put on Moses and God would result in deadly consequences.

In response to their complaining God made a choice to send poisonous snakes that attacked and killed many of the Israelites. As soon as the the children cried out for God to remove his wrath, God provides a plan of redemption.

I thought it was amazing how a people could see the hand of God work on their behalf and still complain. I am glad to know God’s love provides a way of escape even when we make unfair demands and acts of doubt.

When I transitioned to our New Testament text, I fell in love with Jesus all over again.

I thank God that Jesus is not like many of us. I can remember a time when I had the opportunity to show how strong I was without saying a word. But my flesh wanted to prove something to those whose attention was captivated by my presence. After it was all said and done, I asked myself what did I prove? I am now convinced that I should have taken the higher road, and resisted the peer pressure around me.

As I think about the choices Jesus had in that moment, I thank God that he stayed committed to the His plan of redemption.

What would have happened if He would have met the desires of those who mocked him?

We would be still responsible for offering blood sacrifices for ours sin.

By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:7-10 ASV)

If Jesus gave in to his flesh, there would be no hope for mankind.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NLT)

The law would not be fulfilled and God’s word would return to Him void!

“Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures-either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. (Matthew 5:17 MSG)

Today’s Takeaways:

  1. How many times does God have to prove himself to satisfy our fleshly desires?
  2. We should pray and ask for direction before we make choices that could ultimately impact the rest of our life.
  3. We need to be cautious of what we require of others. It is so important that we cover others in prayer instead of pressuring them to make choices.
  4. When we ask God to prove himself, is it an act of faith or an act of doubt?

Stay Blessed!!!!


Needing a Good Set of Wheels

need jobsToday’s reading is Leviticus 11-12 and Mark 7:1-13.

My wife had an unusual childhood. You see her dad was born with several heart defects of which only a couple were known about while he was alive. Her father shouldn’t have lived past age six, but by the grace of¬†God,¬†he was able to grow up and start a family. The defects got the best of him and even a heart transplant couldn’t remedy the situation. Thus, at the age of eleven my wife had to figure out how to live in a family without dad. Finances were obviously a major issue in a new single parent household that had outrageous amounts of hospital bills. My mother-in-law worked three jobs just to keep food on the table and keep the lights on in the house. As a preteen and teenager, there are certain articles that are needed to maintain a “cool” status in high school. One needs to have¬†clothes, the right shoes for track and cross-country, and a hair crimper¬†(did I mention that she was in high school during the nineties). Obviously, these things were not going to be obtained by begging mom. I mean come on. With three jobs mom did good to make it home to sleep a couple of hours. So the natural choice for my wife was to march straight into a government building and demand her fair share of welfare to get what she needed, right? No. Sorry. My wife’s family is no stranger to hard work (need I cite once again that her mom worked around the clock at numerous jobs). What does one need to get a minimum wage job when you live in a rural community? Well, politeness, smarts, and transportation.

Here’s where the path is blocked. You see the death of my wife’s father allowed the household to attain¬†a small amount of survivor’s¬†benefits. However, if she were to get a car to get work, she would need a job, and if she got a job, the survivor’s benefits would cease (don’t ask me why I still don’t understand it all). Consequently, this left the family in a catch 22 situation. There was no way that a vehicle would benefit the family when the government monies were being used to sustain life. The job my wife would have gotten would have given her the resources needed to get her things that¬†the other teens had in her class. Clothes. accessories. extracurriculars.

I know that many of us can look at that situation and think that life is full of disappointments and you need to simply be happy with your health and family. I still find a sadness that someone with the energy and committment to work was not allowed to pursue their dreams. It seems as though that the rules that were setup were working against her.

Looking at Leviticus 11 & 12 you may be overwhelmed with the laws and details there within. I know I was. There was something that caught my eye though. When a mother gave birth to a child they were to make two sacrifices. A sin sacrifice¬†and a burned offering. Generally speaking the sin sacrifice¬†was made to pay the price of the sins of an individual for a whole year. Aren’t you glad that we simply have to believe on Jesus instead of slaughtering a bull every year? Now the sin sacrifice¬†for this situation called for either a dove or a pigeon. This was something that had to be done by everyone across the board. If you had a baby, you had to produce one of these feathered friends. Now the other sacrifice¬†was the burned offering and according to the commentary I read this was the “Thank You God” offering. It was the joyful offering because you were given the gift of a child. Even though this offering was giving thanks to God, it was still a command that it MUST be offered after the birth of a child. A year old lamb was the normal requirement for this sacrifice. However, as we read later in chapter 12, we see that provisions are made for a dove or pigeon to be used in the lambs place should the parents not be able to afford a lamb. In fact I was interested to see in the gospel of Luke that Mary and Joseph had to offer a pigeon as the burned sacrifice when Jesus was born because they were a poor family.

What does this say to me? God is a God that wants all to be involved in his loving plan of salvation. He cares and desires relationship with all of us. When God setup this command of the burned offering He knew that there would be families like my wife’s that would not be able to afford finer things. He still wanted them involved¬†in the process of worship and relationship with Him. God allowed cheaper animals to be used in the process. This story also tells me that all have sinned because all need an atonement sacrifice¬†when they were born. This sacrifice was the same for everyone in the world. It cost the parents little but their faith had to be their to put it into practice. God wants all in a loving relationship with Him.

An interesting thought that I’ll leave you with is this. If God has given you much or done much in your life, are you worshipping and serving him with the higher cost of a year old lamb or are y ou still giving him a pigeon?