Monday, December 25, 2017

Christ is Born Means God is With Us!


           MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
            May you feel Christ’s birth in a new way this day—a way that renews your heart, gives you a new purpose, and blankets your soul in happiness and peace.

            Enjoy your special day and week with family and friends. I’ll see you in the New Year!

Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images

Monday, December 18, 2017

When Your Time on Earth is Over, Will You Depart in Peace?

            THERE’S A SCRIPTURE PASSAGE THAT OFTEN GETS OVERLOOKED at Christmas time, but it’s part of Luke’s Christmas story, and it occurs forty days after Jesus’ birth.

            It was required of new parents to present their firstborn male baby and make a sacrifice after her purification time was over, which was forty days after the birth. The “Highway to Holiness” blog says this is “basically a ceremonial purification from the blood of birth, life, and death.”1 In this case Mary and Joseph sacrificed two turtle doves, which was the sacrifice allowed for middle-class or poorer parents if they could not afford a lamb. Offering the two birds was her purification ritual, not a sacrifice for Jesus.
            The male baby that opened the mother’s womb was to be presented to the Lord in order to fulfill the law of the Lord: “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD” (Exodus 2, 12 and 15).
            When Mary and Joseph make their sojourn to the temple to offer Jesus (symbolically) and their turtledoves, they are met by a man named Simeon who is described as just and devout. A man “waiting for the Consolation of Israel.” Luke says that the Holy Spirit was upon him.
            Luke also points out that God had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he’d seen the Lord’s Christ.
            So in Luke 2:25 – 35, we find Simeon in the temple when Mary and Joseph arrive, and Simeon knows immediately that this baby Jesus is the One, the Lord’s Christ.
            Simeon takes Jesus up in his arms, blesses God and says,
            “Lord, now You are letting your servant
                        depart in peace,
            According to Your word;
            For my eyes have seen Your salvation
            Which You have prepared before the face
                        of all peoples,
            A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
            And the glory of Your people Israel.” (NKJV)

A happy man, ready to die

            Simeon is fulfilled, satisfied. Happy. God has fulfilled His promise to him, and he is ready to die, in peace. And what kind of peace is it that Simeon refers to? It’s a prosperous type of peace that implies quietness or rest. Simeon’s heart has been quieted. He won’t go to the grave wondering, with a questioning heart.
            How wonderful that must have been for Simeon, how full his heart must have been after seeing and holding Jesus! How grateful to God he was!

Ready to depart, in peace
            And shouldn’t it be that way for all followers of Christ? While we may have a plan sheet a mile long of all of the good things we can do, of all the ways we can and want to serve—all of the things we want to accomplish—shouldn’t we be ready to depart in peace? Without hesitation, without remorse or question.
            If the Prince of Peace dwells in our hearts, peace should dwell in our spirits. And we should be ready for the end. Whenever it comes.

            At the completion of this passage, Simeon’s words to Mary and Joseph give us insight as to why you may not have peace.
            Verse 34 - 35 says, “…Behold this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against…that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Causing a heart crisis
            Evidently the Prince of Peace doesn’t bring peace to everyone, or they don’t accept the kind of peace He brings. Just as He did during his short life on earth, he does now. He is a lightning rod that divides. He divides families and friends. Some men were raised up while others were brought down.
            Jesus caused a crisis in Israel that ended up causing a crisis in the world, and that crisis has avalanched down to us today.
            Nothing has changed. He continues to divide. And He was spoken against two thousand years ago just as He is now.
            And the reason?
            Because He is a revealer of hearts. A heart surgeon.
            And if your heart is sick, you really have no peace.
            Jesus reveals in the light what has been hidden in the darkness.
            He causes us to examine our own thoughts and attitudes. We all undergo turmoil when we are confronted with Jesus and His truth.

How about you?
            Everyone at some point in his life has to decide what to do with Jesus. So the question is: Who do you say Jesus is?
            Your answer will reveal the thoughts and beliefs of your heart. Your answer will reveal whether or not your heart is a purveyor of real, soul-quieting peace, or is a heart double-minded and troubled.

            I pray it is overflowing with peace!

            If it isn’t, or you’re unsure, now is the time to find out. Jesus came over two thousand years ago so you might claim and have peace. He’s ready to give it to you today. What a Christmas present!

 Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images

Monday, December 11, 2017

He Might Come Tonight—Are You Ready?

            IF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE SHOWED UP ON EARTH TONIGHT, would you be excited to see Him?
            Or not?

            As we move forward in our Advent peace study, I want to take you to the Gospel of Matthew, second chapter, verses 1-4. It’s the chapter about the Wise Men coming from the east to worship Jesus after His birth.

            “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’
            When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.”

            You can find a lot of commentaries about this passage online, and I would encourage you to do more research, but let me give you just a screen-shot background.
            First and foremost, this event actually occurs around two years after Jesus’s birth, so Jesus is probably two.
            Second, King Herod is a Roman who has been appointed by the Romans to rule over the Jews. So he’s not a Jew; but evidently he knows something about Jewish law and prophecy.
            Another thing to know about him is that he’s evil. Pure evil. And power hungry. And probably mentally imbalanced. He has three of his sons murdered, and his mother-in-law and his second wife. This is a man who sounds paranoid and doesn’t trust others. And he certainly seems to revel in his power.
            He lives in Jerusalem. And that’s where the wise men go to find him, to obtain information about the location of the King of the Jews.
            Notice how they title Jesus? As “King of the Jews.” Inferring that Jesus is the real king, and they know and acknowledge that? And maybe Herod isn’t?

How would you react?
           First, I doubt that three plain old wise men from the east riding into town, requesting an audience with King Herod, would have gotten much notice, IF they were just wise men, and IF just the three of them came riding in like you or I would enter a city. As many authors have suggested, they could have been kings themselves. But Scripture never says there were just three of them; and they probably came into town with a resplendent entourage and a stream of servants and horses or camels carrying baggage.
            Be assured, they got everyone’s attention.
            Including the Jerusalem residents.

What gold nuggets are in those verses?  
In just four lines in Scripture you learn that:

1. The wise men know Jesus is to be worshipped. So that means he’s incredibly important, and His birth is significant—to everyone.

2. Herod evidently knew and believed in the prophecies, enough to realize that this newborn king is the Christ, the anointed one of Israel. The Messiah. In verse 4, we see him gathering all the chief Jewish priests and scribes together to tell him where the Christ is to be born.

3. The arrival of the wise men and Herod’s reaction certainly got the attention of the residents, because it’s clear that they hear about the wise men’s reason for arrival and their request. Someone must have made a big deal about it and spread the word. Quickly.

            And we learn something else, in verse 3, that surprised me. I’d never noticed it before. Let’s read it again:
            “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” (My emphasis.)
            Now, I can understand old Herod being troubled. Terrified, probably. With any possibility of someone else grabbing his throne, Herod is reactive and proactive. He’s not about to let that happen. But now here comes this baby who threatens his rule and very existence. And he’s terrified.

Not what you’d expect—       
            But the people?! Why are they troubled? (Historians estimate the population to be between 20,000 and 80,000, with best guestimates at 40,000.) I can understand the Roman citizens being nervous, but they didn’t believe in all of that Jewish prophecy anyway, so we can probably discount them from the passage.
            But shouldn’t the Jews be excited that prophecy has been fulfilled and their long-awaited Christ has been born? Their Savior, their King? After all, some historians say there were probably 6,000 Pharisees in Jerusalem. The Scripture-sleuths. The crème de la crème of Jews.
            But they’re not excited. They’re troubled. Troubled.
            Why? It doesn’t say they’re ambivalent about Him, or disinterested. It says they were troubled. What reasons do you think they might have for being troubled about Jesus’ birth?

            I can think of several.
            1. A new king would upset the apple cart they’re used to. People usually don’t like change.
            2. They automatically react to Herod’s reaction, like mob mentality, without giving it much thought.
            3. They know who this king must be, and they believe in Him, but they’re a little nervous about what He’s going to think of them. And maybe what He’s going to do to them.
            And then there’s the big reason—
            They don’t know Him, and they’re afraid.

Second Advent details
            Scripture says that when He returns again, those who don’t know Him are going to be frightened. Things are going to get so bad that the unbelievers would rather have a boulder drop on them than face the events.

            My question for you is: How about you? If He returned tonight, would you be troubled, or would you be oozing joy and praising Heaven?
            Would you be humbled, or anxious?
            Would you be excited, or trying to hide?

            Or would you be like the wise men who searched for Him, found Him, and worshiped Him?

            Are you in King Herod’s camp, or the Wise Men’s?
            Where would you like to be?

            If you’re a wise person and have found Him, amen! I’ll be worshiping right alongside you. I might be flat on my face worshiping, but I will be worshiping.
            If you’re unsure, I pray that you take this Advent season to search and find. He will be found by you if you search diligently and honestly for Him. With an open heart. 

            And when He has been found, worship! You will have crossed over from Herod’s camp to Jesus’.
            And you won’t be troubled about His return.

Make it a great week!

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images