Tag Archives: Jesus

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 High Priest

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 30, Jeremiah 50, Hebrews 7.

I’ve been listening to a podcast that is a series of sermons Mark Driscoll recently did about the story of Esther. It has been interesting to listen to. One insight in particular struck me: I think I’ve heard of the analogy before but it didn’t really hit me like it did when I heard him preach it. Esther is a type (or picture) of Christ, because she represents the union of two previously irreconcilable identities. Never before in Persian history had there been someone who identified both as a Jew (a race that was trampled and powerless), but who could also claim a position in royalty. The reason Esther was in a position to be a hero and do something nobody else could’ve done is because God orchestrated events so that she could be both. In the same way, Christ identifies both as a member of our lowly community of humanity, and also as royalty with access to the ear of the unapproachable King of Kings. Nobody else can bridge that irreconcilable gap except Him.

I like how the author of Hebrews illustrates this, as well, in 7:25-26:

“Therefore, He is always able to save¬†those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede¬†for them.¬†For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”

Isn’t it awe-inspiring that we have a high priest who “always lives to intercede” for us, but who also is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens”? We would be hopelessly lost if this majestic, revered high priest didn’t also choose to identify with us, as unworthy and soiled though we are. What a savior!

 

 


God’s Leading

GPS

Today’s reading: Micah 1-3; Acts 21:1-17.

There’s an episode of “The Office” that I remember, where two of the main characters, Dwight and Michael Scott, are driving a rental car with a GPS. They have their destination programmed into the GPS, and Michael is driving. They come near a turn, and the GPS tells them to turn right, off the road into a ditch. Dwight desperately tries to convince Michael to ignore it, but Michael in confusion turns right: straight into the ditch and sinks the rental car halfway into a lake.

God’s leading can sometimes seem like that GPS: God, why are we turning here? Surely you mean to keep going straight, don’t you? I think Paul had a few people expressing this opinion to him in our reading in Acts today. In the space of a few weeks he had three different congregations (even with a couple “Words from the Lord”) trying to dissuade him from the direction God had given him. Paul held firm.

I don’t understand how God’s leading works a lot of times, but I know this: if God has given you a direction, stick to it! People will try to talk you out of it, maybe even with sound advice and with sincere concern for your welfare, but it’s your responsibility to follow what God has told you until He tells you otherwise. That’s hard to do: from a selfish perspective it’s scary to step out into unpopular territory and risk looking like a fool. Also from a more spiritual perspective, it’s always wise to listen to counsel and to accept advice. However, the simple truth is that God’s clear leading trumps even well-meaning, perfectly sensible human reasoning, and even warnings of danger are not sufficient reason to give up on that leading. Paul’s example here is a challenge to us.

Fortunately, we can know that God is much more reliable than any GPS. If He does ever drive us into a river, we can know that He just didn’t want us in that particular car anymore!


What am I becoming?

construction

Today’s readings: Isaiah 59-61; Romans 11:19-36.

The old saying goes, “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” I ran across the following quote today, and I was impressed by it:

“The truth is that time has no more power to sanctify a man than space has. Indeed, time is only a fiction by which we account for change. It is change, not time, that turns fools into wise men and sinners into saints. Or more accurately, it is Christ who does the whole thing by means of the changes He works in the heart.”-A.W. Tozer

Consider the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 61:

He has clothed me with the garments of salvation
and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness,
as a groom wears a turban
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth produces its growth,
and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

Praise the Lord that He does the work in us to make us into new creations, worthy of His name. We all grow more experienced and most of us grow¬†more mature as we get older, but for us to grow in righteousness, we must rely on Christ working in us. As Isaiah describes it, “a robe of righteousness”. We, as the church, are the “garden” that will show righteousness and elicit praise from all nations. We could never build ourselves up to righteousness and we could never deserve Him to do it for us, but He does it for us free of charge. Amazing.

And so I end with the inspiring words of Romans 11:36″ “For from Him and through Him¬†and to Him are all things.¬†To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”


Day #49 The Ultimate Authority

Today’s Reading:

Exodus 27-28 & Mark 1:23-45

I am excited to know that the Power of God is not limited to humans and the elements of the world, but every part of creation must submit to His world. Addiction is defined as the continued use of a mood altering addictive substance or behaviors despite the adverse consequences that may accompany those behaviors. The dangerous reality, is that some people who struggle with addiction do not realize that it is impacting their thoughts and actions in their everyday lives. Our text reminds me of three key factors that can help us as we endeavor to be like Christ: the power of god; the authority of God; and how we measure our behaviors.

When I think about the power of the blood of Jesus and how it has the power to wash away ALL my sins, I get excited to know God’s love is unconditional. I know the obstacles that I had to overcome; and to know that God can forgive me is a gift from an all seeing God. In the same manner what ever issue that I was tied to, God’s has the power to break every addiction, soul tie and habit.

Jesus’ actions showed that He really had the authority that He claimed. In this text, He cast out a demon. How? By His words! Nothing more. When Jesus merely said, “Be quiet and come out of him,” the demon left the man. His words had authority even over demons. The calmness with which Jesus expelled demons reflected His power: He never argued, struggled or created a scene. He simply ordered the demons to leave and they left. No wonder people were amazed. He had demonstrated the credentials to prove His authority.

In every area of our life, authority is essential. To determine distance, it is necessary to have a yardstick or standard of measure by which to calculate length. Thus, if someone wishes to know how long a room is, he measures it. God has provided a yardstick for us: Jesus and the Word. When we wish to know whether something is right or wrong, we should evaluate it by the standard of the Scriptures. Therefore, you need to have a Bible at your side while you are studying, and continually refer to it to be sure that what is taught in these lessons is true. The Bible is our yardstick.

Questions to consider:

What amazed the multitudes about Jesus?
a) physical appearance
b) intelligence
c) wealth
d) authority in teaching

How did Jesus expel the demon?
by conducting a seance
by a magical formula
by a simple command (rebuke)
by taking up a collection

What purpose did Jesus’ miracles serve?
they made Him rich
they demonstrated His authority and proved He was from God
they proved people today can do miracles
they served no purpose whatever


Day 21: How Does It Impact Your Faith?

Today’s Reading: Job 32-33 & Matthew 14:1-21

Righteous But Found Guilty

Bad things happen to good people. ¬†Have you ever been in a situation where you know you’ve made good decisions, but nothing around you reflects your efforts? This is an interesting dilemma. ¬†Today we have three examples of what happens to righteous people.

Example 1: ¬†Job is being tested by God. He has lost his family, his health is failing, and now he is being criticized by his friends. Can you imagine three of your friends coming to your home and spending countless hours trying to convince you to confess to sins you never committed? And although you explained to them that you didn’t do anything wrong; your friends become even more angry. How would this impact your faith?

Example 2: ¬†Herod heard about what Jesus was doing, and used this as an excuse to arrest John. Because John was viewed as a prophet, Herod had to find a valid reason to arrest John to avoid a riot. Herod was excited to incarcerate the man who said it was unlawful in God’s sight for him to marry the wife of his fallen brother. Have you ever been in a position when you knew that an individual disliked you and was always looking for an opportunity to¬†assassinate¬†your character? ¬†It’s even worse when they try to recruit others to assist them in the attack against you. How would this impact your faith?

Example 3: Finally, as I read these two accounts; I am reminded about Jesus who experienced similar accusations. He was tried and found guilty, although he never committed one crime. His character was questioned, he was whipped, spat on, and sentenced to death by hanging on the cross. While hanging on the cross, Jesus said a prayer that should impact our faith when facing these types of situations: “Lord, Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”. How does this impact your faith?

Today’s Takeaways

  1. Bad things happen to good people.
  2. Don’t let others discourage you, and don’t allow them to plant seeds that will cause you to question your faith.
  3. Remember that living for Christ comes with a cost, and sometimes death is the price. But God says in Matthew 5:11 (KJV) “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake”.
  4. Continue living a righteous life despite what you experience around you. Romans 6:5-6 (KJV) says: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin”.