Posts Tagged ‘ Belief ’

Reliving Responses to Christmas: Strangers to God

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post, this post, this post, and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!


I hope you have enjoyed this week as we have reviewed how Mary and Joseph, the Innkeeper, some shepherds, and Simeon and Anna all responded to the birth of Christ. Today we look at some people who had similar knowledge but responded vastly differently:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:1-18

The first things we must ask ourselves are why the people of Jerusalem were disturbed at this news. It was because the leadership was disturbed. Why should that disturb them? For starters, Herod was disturbed. King Herod was a power-hungry man who looked for fame and control wherever he could. He played nice with Roman emperors and generals to get into his position of authority over Judea. He built several large structures, including the Temple in Jerusalem, to grow in fame. Yet he was also threatened by any potential threat to his power (whether real or imaginary) to the point that he even had most of his family killed to prevent them from trying to take away his power from him. He had rabbis killed who disagreed with him. It is not a far stretch to figure out why he was disturbed at this baby’s birth and therefore had all boys in Bethlehem killed. It is also not hard to figure out why the people would be disturbed by his being disturbed.

We could also consider that the Jewish leadership could be disturbed by this news, as well. When Jesus was walking around during His ministry, approximately 30 years after his birth, it was the religious leaders who gave Him the hardest time. They had also accumulated some prestige of their own, and a Messiah, a coming king, might just throw that sense of power out the window for them.

The Magi, or Wise Men, on the other hand, had no first-hand knowledge of the coming Messiah. As far as we know, they were just scholars who had read the Hebrew writings (essentially the Bible) and studied the environment (they were like astronomers more than astrologers, though a blending was definitely there) to figure out Who and what was coming into the world. If they truly thought this was just another king coming on the scene, they would not have done much else than note the occurrence. However, it seems pretty likely that they knew this King was going to change things in the world.

Think about it: They travelled a great distance to find a baby; they were overjoyed at finding this child; they made, essentially, financial sacrifices; and they worshiped Jesus. They may not have completely understood what was happening (when do any of us really?), but they knew enough to worship Him.

Have you noticed a theme with people directly involved with the baby Jesus? They were all filled with joy! Those who sought to ignore or even remove the child had no joy. They may have had times of happiness, but not lasting joy.

What about you? Do you find joy when thinking about the birth of Jesus Christ? Or are you more likely to be offended, disturbed, or uncaring during this season of the year? Do you go out of your way seek peace, seek understanding, seek joy, or give honor? Or are you more likely find ways to make sure no one else is happy? Does Jesus bring you joy or deepen your annoyance/hatred? A follow-up question to that is “Why?”

It is interesting to note that the Magi were not what we in the West traditionally call “Believers,” yet God rescued them from Herod’s punishment and getting blood on their hands by revealing to Herod the location of the child. They may not have been worshiping Jesus in the sense that others whom we have looked at have done it, but they still knew enough to give Him honor.

Do you give Jesus honor? Both Herod and the Magi believed Jesus was King of the Jews, but they responded much differently to that belief.

Reliving Responses to Christmas: Temple Knights

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post and this post and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!


We have now looked at how Jesus’ parents, the Innkeeper, and some shepherds responded to the birth of Christ. Today, some prayer warriors meet the infant (and this will be longer, because the passage is 20 verses long):

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:21-40

These are two people who have spent the majority of their lives praying. One lived a very righteous life, and the other secluded herself in the Temple to pray continuously.

Simeon “was waiting for the consolation of Israel,” and to see “the Lord’s Christ.” His entire life was about waiting on the Lord – God’s humble servant, if you will. His entire life was dedicated to glorifying God.

Anna went from tragedy – losing her husband relatively early – into a life dedicated to God, 24/7 prayer and fasting. She never left the Temple, so her social life must have been rather limited.

Something fascinating about these two is that the moment they saw the baby Jesus they knew they were looking upon the face of the one who could save Israel and all of humanity. It was instantaneous. Further, this little baby had not even done anything of note (of which they knew, such as the immaculate conception … the virgin conceiving a child without physical interaction with a man), yet Simeon and Anna were ready to die. As Simeon said, “you now dismiss your servant in peace.” He knew he would not die without having seen the Lord’s Christ, and he was content – nay, overjoyed! – to have seen this tiny baby.

Sometimes, when reading this story from Jesus’ infancy, I hear Anna start singing “Let’s Here It for the Boy” when seeing Jesus! Silly, I know, but it at least helps me grasp her excitement!

Do you get excited about the Lord’s Salvation? Can you contain your excitement about all the things God has done and will do? Are you prepared for His Encore, the Second Coming? Are you able to discern His presence? Would you have been able to recognize the child as the Savior of the world? Will you recognize Him when He returns?

We do not necessarily have to hide ourselves away in a temple or monastery to pray 24/7, and we certainly do not have to be perfectly righteous in our own right. Christ took care of that part through His death and resurrection. We do have to be willing servants. I have to be. You have to be.

Reliving Responses to Christmas: God’s Parents

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!


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

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 descendants 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.)

Groundhog Day, again …

While there may be nothing new under the sun, one constant we can trust is God’s wisdom. Get a taste at Proverbial Thought!

As I type this, the world has been reminded time and again about what groundhogs across the United States have said about the coming of Spring (or the extension of Winter). While the first official day of spring is March 20 (which happens to be six weeks from February 2nd), a lot of people are really wondering if there is going to be six weeks more of snow and cold or if it will come to an end soon.

What has been the primary mode for people reminding each other on social media of this grand revealing by a groundhog of the start of Spring?

Groundhog Day (1993) Poster

Groundhog Day (1993) poster, from IMDb.com

Talking about Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.

The basic premise of this film is that a bitter man (played by Bill Murray) keeps waking up on February 2nd, the same day, over and over again. It is not until he learns to appreciate life that he can break the cycle.

The Bible touches on this, as well:

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV

The Bible gives similar, albeit more focused, advice for breaking the cycle of repeating the same things over and over:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

But this life is not the end. As Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” so we need the full story.

This little story out of Acts 16 (vv. 24-34) demonstrates where the fear of the Lord should lead us:

Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Some Final Thoughts About Momma Klem

My mom said to get the Wisdom of God, so start with some of the thoughts found at Proverbial Thought!

Last week, Jesus gave my mom a great big hug and took her Home, one day after her 53rd birthday. The amazing thing is how much joy and love for God was experienced and expressed throughout her final days.

It is hard to stay upset when someone on her way out stresses the importance of our Lord being glorified in the middle of everything.

It was my honor this past Saturday to share about my mom at her Celebration of Life service. I am sharing it with you … plus the last bit I knew I would not be able to say in that moment!

I remember telling my parents when I was a child that I wanted to be just like them when I grew up … only better.

When I first became a Christian, my mom was afraid I had joined a cult, but she could not deny the change in my life.

James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” My mom’s response was “Well, I guess I’ll never get grace!”

However, she had a lot of questions, and within a year of my coming to Christ, my parents did to. But mom just asked more questions. As [Pastors] Todd and Scott  can attest, she always had questions. Sometimes there were full arguments over Scripture and Christian life. She would often come to me, call me, or message me in some fashion asking if she was sinning for doubting and questioning so many things that came her way.

First, I would remind her that many people doubted, including the Apostle Thomas, and He is a pillar of the Church! And I would always respond with 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Test everything; hold onto the good.”

Back to James 4, in verses 7-8, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

As a new Christian, I often wondered why more people would not help out as much as I did as a new believer. When my parents finally started following Jesus, there was no stopping them! Ask anyone: they dived in head first, helping out everywhere they could.

But my mom had compassion and love for others. She had raised me to not judge anyone, not for any reason, no matter what they looked like, no matter what they acted like. She certainly lived out 1 Samuel 16:7, which says “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Many of you here know how true this is. How many co-workers, youth, and others did she reach with her love and compassion? She very easily lived out 1 Corinthians 9:22, I will just read it: “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” She struggled through her doubts so that with compassion and love she could help others struggle through their doubts that others might be saved.

She learned to live out James 4:9, to “[become] wretched and mourn and weep. [And to] Let [her] laughter be turned to mourning and [her] joy to gloom” so that others would come to know the same Savior she knows.

And as verse 10 says, she learned to “Humble [herself] before the Lord, and [she is exalted].” I think needing to be moved to a larger hospital room to fit all of the guests, and the people sitting here and lining the halls attests to, she has been exalted. And for all of us who know Jesus, we will one Glorious Day see her again.

[What I would have said, but had written down]

My parents have been through many fires and trials in life, and they have grown to live Jude, verses 20-23, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

My parents have made it very difficult to do life better than them. I just look forward to that Glorious Day when we all get to reunite with our Lord and remember all of our stories together.

Where Jesus Spends His Time Today

Seek the wisdom of God, and find a taste at Proverbial Thought!

This past Sunday much of the Christian world celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Interesting note: this past Wednesday was probably the actual anniversary of the event.)

Last week I mentioned where Jesus spent the Passover when most Jews (except His followers and some others, I am sure!) were celebrating their freedom to worship God. Come Sunday morning, He proved He was God when He was raised from the dead!

Happily ever after, right?

Close.

There is still more to the story:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:1-11, ESV

The message this week is simple: our Lord is in heaven. Our Risen Savior has given us a hope for eternal life, and He sits at the right hand of the Father. He is in control!

AND HE IS COMING BACK AGAIN!

Really?!

Get a taste of wisdom over at Proverbial Thought!

Big and Newborn Bros

Big and Newborn Bros

My Wedding with Nick

At my wedding 2.6 years ago

Yesterday was my little brother’s 28th birthday. I still think of him as a junior higher, perhaps 13 or 14 years old. That is now half his age! I can barely believe it!

This past Thursday, January 9, was my 14th Re-birthday. It was 14 years ago I first knelt down and declared I believed Jesus is my Savior and the Son of God. I was only a couple years older than how I still view my brother when that happened.

This all got me to thinking about something.

Some friends and I had a conversation about conversations a while back. It was all about the exclamation “Really?!”

The full context of this conversation was focused around what one of us had heard about friendly conversation and this one word. Asking this word after a friend or loved one makes a statement is the same as casting doubt on the validity of the statement.

It is one thing if the conversation goes like this:

“I just won a million dollars!”
“Wow! Really?!”

Winning a million dollars is not a typical occurrence in daily life. Shock and amazement with a little bit of doubt makes sense.

But when the conversation is more like this:

“I lost my phone today.”
“Really?”

In this context, it can said as any of the following:

  • Anger: “How could you do that again?”
  • Sarcasm: “This is such a surprise coming from you!”
  • Astonishment: “This just happened?”

And many others.

The underlying theme is that saying “Really?!” denotes disbelief or mistrust, or at worst it denotes aggression or animosity. And to be fair, most of us use the term in such a way as to say “Tell me more!”

In Jesus’ Name. Really?!

You are probably thinking about how often you say “Really?!” to people, and, if you are like we were, you are attempting to justify your use of the term and explain that you usually mean “Tell me more!”

Let me then ask you this, Christian believer: How do you live your life?

Do go around claiming your connection to your church and as a good Christian, yet those outside the Church look at your example of love and light and think “Is this person really ‘blameless and innocent, [a child] of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16, ESV)

Put another way, do they look at your life and say “Really?! That’s a Christ follower?” And they want to stay away from God because of your example?

Or do you go around sharing the good news of Christ as you live out His commands of love and sacrifice? Do those outside the Church look at your example of love and light and think, “Really?! This kind of thing is true? Tell me more!”

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.
2 Corinthians 13:5-6, ESV