Archive for the ‘ Jesus ’ Category

Responses to Christmas: Social Outcasts

We have looked at how Jesus’ parents and a bed-n-breakfast owner responded to the birth of Jesus. Now for some very important outcasts:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:8-20

First of all, it is understood by many that Bethlehem was most likely a town which handled flocks used for Temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, thus making the likelihood of shepherds being nearby very high.

Shepherds were the social outcasts of the day. They were necessary as sources of food and sacrifices, but they were viewed by some as unclean (I mean, think about, they pretty much lived with animals more than other people). They supplied a need for society, but they were cut off from society in many ways. They really had a very important job!

They hear that the long-awaited Savior has been born, and they abandon their post. The shepherds left their sheep to potentially wander off by themselves (more than a nuisance than a major problem, as the sheep could probably be found later) or be attacked by other animals (shepherds also guard the flock from danger). These men potentially jeopardized their livelihood to see a baby promised to be the Savior of the world.

They did not stop there, though! They not only praised God, they went around telling everyone they saw about the newborn Savior! (And there was much rejoicing)

What about you? When this time of year comes around are you excited or tired of the garbage now associated with the holiday celebrating this birth? At any time of the year, are you willing to lose everything for the sake of our Lord and Savior? Are you willing to put your reputation and livelihood on the line for the sake of Jesus the Christ? Do you have an excitement of knowing the One True God, that you cannot help but tell others about Him and the love He has lavished upon us by coming as a human? Do you give God praise that our Savior was born? Do you give God praise that our Savior came, died, and rose again for you and me and all who will call on His beautiful Name?

If not, seek Him anew. If nothing else, consider me an angel proclaiming to you the birth of our Lord.

LET US PRAISE OUR HEAVENLY FATHER FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE!

Responses to Christmas: The Innkeeper

Yesterday we looked at how Mary and Joseph responded to the birth of Christ. Continuing this little series, how did the Innkeeper respond? (This is a short post, today)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7

http://seg.sharethis.com/getSegment.php?purl=http%3A%2F%2Fasimplemanofgod.wordpress.com%2Fwp-admin%2Fpost-new.php&jsref=&rnd=1324264788564Many people have a tendency to label the innkeeper as rude, mean, hard-hearted, and even evil. It is possible, but what if these labels are either half-truths or flat-out wrong?

As we read, the Emperor had decreed a census required of all people in the Roman world. Even a tiny town like Bethlehem was besieged by weary travellers heading to comply with Imperial commands. We must remember that Bethlehem was the City of David. David had multiple wives with multiple children. His successor as king of Israel, Solomon, had 300 wives. The descendants of David would have been rather numerous, to say the least (even after centuries of being conquered and carted to and from the land, wars, and natural disasters). It is understandable that Bethlehem, surely the home town of many other people who had children throughout Israel’s history, would see many folks showing up for the census.

This would mean that a tiny inn in this tiny village could only handle so many people, even filling to over capacity. It is safe to say that the innkeeper was handling more than his fair share of responsibility.

If the innkeeper is guilty of anything, it seems it would be being too busy for God. He had to keep his paying guests as happy as possible in cramped circumstances, so he did not have time to worry about a young couple expecting a child. There may have already been some expecting parents staying there. GIVE THE GUY A BREAK!

The question we must ask ourselves – both during the busy holiday season and throughout the year – is are we too busy for God? Do we take time every day to focus on God? Are we filling our lives with so many distractions and obligations that we neglect the One to whom we owe our very existence?

Another thing to consider is that perhaps we struggle finding God because He is not moving where everyone else is going. We must also remember that if Jesus was born inside a cramped, over-crowded inn, how would the shepherds have been able to visit the newborn Savior of the world?

Responses to Christmas: God’s Parents

It is time for a special series … THIS WEEK ONLY!

Yeah, I kind of gave into some of the materialistic hype. This special is only available the week leading up to this Christmas.

I have a seen a few similar series going around, but mine is better because … uhhh … I am doing it this week? This series is about how people responded to the birth of Jesus.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38

http://seg.sharethis.com/getSegment.php?purl=http%3A%2F%2Fasimplemanofgod.wordpress.com%2Fwp-admin%2Fpost-new.php&jsref=&rnd=1324259818020

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25

God clearly chose these two to raise the boy Jesus for a reason. Other than being descendents of David, they also were kinda righteous, as humans go.

Take Mary:

  1. She was presented with something impossible: pregnancy without … the fun part. Her reaction to hearing this: “Help me understand how this is possible!”
  2. With a response that would make most humans say “Yeah, okay. Whatever that means!” she replies “I do not really get it, but I will follow You and see what amazing things you can do!”

Now Joseph:

  1. His first response to the unknown was to protect the girl he loved yet bow out gracefully. He wanted to protect himself (not bad) and the girl who apparently had been unfaithful, someone who apparently had sinned rather egregiously. He was a pretty cool dude, man!
  2. He has a dream telling him that the baby will be God and save people from their sins, therefore he should still marry Mary. Based on that dream, he complies. This is really all we know about Joseph (other than he and Mary forgot Jesus at the age of 12, and he also looked for Him). Personally, I see there is more than enough information here to understand his character: awesome!

What can we learn from these two?

  1. It is okay to have doubts, provided you are willing to listen to God (or His messengers).
  2. It is okay to question God, provided you are honestly seeking answers and not trying to justify yourself or simply asking rhetorically from disbelief.
  3. Sometimes, perhaps many or most times, we will not fully understand (if at all) what God is doing, but that is okay provided we continue to follow His leading.
  4. Enduring something inconvenient can lead to amazing blessings!

What about you? When you have doubts do you listen for God’s leading? Do you ask God any of the who, what, when, where, why, or how questions expecting a reply and being open to the answer? Are you willing to move forward in your confusion and lack of understanding? Do you trust God? If you do, amazing blessings await. To be fair, the blessings may not appear until eternity, but a lifetime of worries and pain is worth an eternity of peace and joy. (Think of a road trip someplace, like Disneyland or to family you have not seen in a while. It may be uncomfortable getting there, but the joy and experience of getting there almost help you forget it or even make it worth it.)

When half-empty is a good thing

The Christmas season is called the most wonderful time of the year, the season of joy, and a time of love and giving.

Many people look at the figurative glass as half-full during this time of the year (unless, of course, they are standing in a line that stretches half-way around the Super Wal-Mart in which they have been shopping for that last gift).

As my pastor said this past Sunday (in the beginning of his message about Joseph, second only to Pharoah in Egypt, forgave and loved his brothers who sold him into slavery), for many people the Christmas season is not wonderful or joyful. The Christmas season for these people (I am sure some are reading this message) instead reminds them of broken marriages, lost spouses and/or children, being alone, or being close to death.

For these people, their glass looks half-empty.

Is half-empty always a bad thing, though?

When we have to take medicine that tastes disgusting, we would rather the cup be half-empty than half-full.

When someone puts food in front of us that we think tastes horrible (but we are being polite and eating it), we would prefer the plate be half-empty than half-full.

When riding on a city bus while feeling nauseous, other people are happy when the bus is half-empty rather than completely full!

In terms of our times of pain and longing, grief and loss, feeling like we are half-empty can be a good thing (though I know it does not feel like it).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:3-5

We have a promise from our Lord that we will be with Him and comforted. The question remains, what do we have for now? It may seem selfish, but knowing we can receive comfort later does not always help in the meantime.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

God does comfort us in our times of need. He does not always do it immediately, and sometimes He waits until after our trials … sometimes for years.

However, we also have the promise that God will indeed comfort us so that we may comfort others in His name.

God can save us from troubles, but God often blesses us with the opportunity to help others by sharing His comfort and strength with them.

We could also say that God empties us through our troubles that we might be filled with Him to the point of overflowing.

Half-empty becomes good when we are re-filled with God.

I am not saying we need to get to a point of enjoying our pain and loss; that is masochism. Instead, we rejoice in our suffering, because we know that we are being used for God.

Christmas is a reminder that our God did not leave us alone to suffer. In his grace, He came to us, suffered with us, and suffered for us. He understands our pain and our loss and has overcome them. He alone can give us comfort and peace, but He also allows us to suffer that He may work through us to bring comfort and peace to others.

Misplaced Thankfulness

This is a period of the year when happy stories gain prominence in the public sphere. This past week was Thanksgiving, that time when we express our thankfulness for what we have.

Unfortunately, there are still stories abounding that are less than happy (downright sad most of the time). On Wednesday night (11/23), I read a news story that was less than happy. If you do not have time to read through the article, here is a brief synopsis:

A South Korean couple wanted a baby, and they gave birth to a girl a few months ago. She was born prematurely, and they did not have jobs. This led them to feel inadequate for the job of raising a child, therefore they would spend many hours a day at internet cafes playing a game called “Prius Online” (a lot like The Sims and Second Life, if you know what that is). In this game, they began to raise a virtual baby named Anima. They would go home every so often to feed their real baby powdered milk (I am assuming they added water so that it was not just powder). This past September they came home from a 12-hour session of their game to find their daughter had died from malnourishment. The father said, “I am sorry for what I did and hope that my daughter does not suffer any more in heaven.”

Here is my take on this situation: the parents had a misplaced thankfulness.

We see this kind of thing all the time. People have something great or even perfect for them in their possession, yet all they think about are the things they can get. They are not focused on what they do not have, just what they can get. We know this is the case with these people, because they do not complain about not having something. In fact, this kind of people brag about what they do have and want to have (and plan on getting).

In the case of this child’s death, we can see that the parents wanted a child. We can see that they wanted to care for a child. Their problem was that they were not able to cope with their situation. While they wanted a child, to care for a child, they felt they were inadequate given their circumstances. Therefore, they shifted their thinking from being focused on their real child to being focused on their virtual baby. They misplaced their thankfulness.

  • It is just like the man who works 80 hours per week to provide for his family.
  • It is just like the child at school who bullies others because he does not know how to show affection.
  • It is just like the woman who gives gifts she can not afford to find acceptance.
  • It is just like the church who focuses on programs instead of people while trying to be hip and inviting.
  • It is just like the Christian who avoids “sinners” because of the desire for purity.

In all of these scenarios, people substitute something in place of real relationships. They want people around and to have things “perfect,” but they do not connect with others (at least not in a way that is good).

There is really only one answer for all people: Jesus Christ.

As I posted last week, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:15-16)

Also, read Hebrews 12 and 13 … and the rest of the Bible!

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 11/27/2011

My Thanksgiving Day post was about why I am thankful, so today’s poem is a reminder of that.

 

 

here is why
daniel m  klem

why were there screams
and all of the cries
that the Son of Man
should be crucified
the senseless violence that
could have been stayed
was acted through
on that horrible day

why did God allow it
if His Son had to die
it happened so you
could keep your life
Christ died to set
our souls completely free
and wash sin from everyone
including you and me

 

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 116.

Back from the Dead

Today is All Saints Day, Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos, All Hallows, or Hallowmas. No matter what it is called, today is a day that celebrates those who have come before and moved on to the next life. No matter the history of today and Halloween (All Hallows Eve, the day before All Hallows/Hallowmas … think what Christmas Eve is to Christmas), there is a rich history all over the world of honoring or venerating the dead.

I will not get into whether or not it is okay or even good to do such things or celebrate holidays here. That is for later.

I want to discuss death.

The picture I have above is from the website zombiejesus.com, and it is definitely satirical but not theologically sound. They quote two verses from the Bible:

1) He came back from the dead
Acts 2:24
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him

2) He encourages zombie like behavior
John 6:53
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have  no life in you”

As someone said elsewhere, “While precocious PKs (Pastor’s Kids) may try to pull off the Zombie Jesus costume, passionately asserting that Jesus did rise from the dead, a quick-witted parent will counter that He did NOT, however, rise from the UNdead.” The point: A zombie is the walking dead; Jesus defeated death. Zombies are in a state of perpetual death, never satisfied and never resting; Jesus was freed “from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” and satisfies all our needs and gives us rest.

I have to point out that it should be “zombie-like,” with a hyphen. Other than nitpicking grammar, zombies do not drink blood. That is vampires. Therefore, they would have to include that Jesus is a Vampire. However, they are both undead creatures.

Ooh! There is a good point. These things are still creatures – CREATED THINGS! Jesus is not created, He is “begotten” or comes directly from God and IS GOD!

Moving on, I actually agree with this point for the humor-value (after fixing the small grammar issue), especially seeing as this very point is what kept many from becoming Christians in the first few centuries of the Church’s temporal existence. Though it is misguided, since we eat bread as Christ’s body and drink wine/juice/water as Christ’s blood.

Jesus is not a Zombie.

You might still here me (if you know me personally) occasionally refer to Christian Zombies, but it is slightly different (but only slightly).

Also, do not worship the dead or pray to them in the sense that you expect them to actually help you. They might hear you ask them to speak to God on your behalf, but if they do hear prayers (pray essentially means “ask”) I must confess to not thinking it matters much (sorry Catholic friends and family, but I have a point). We have a mediator: Jesus Christ. As I said above, He is God and is our connection to God through the Holy Spirit.