A Changed Direction…

Luke 2:1, 4-5 (NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 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. 

Our Verse of the Day addresses a change of circumstances in the Advent Story that served to fulfill the prophetic words of Micah surrounding the location for the birth of the Messiah.  Micah 5:2 foretold: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Let’s read the narrative Luke provided for the nativity…

Luke 2:1-21 (NIV) ~ The Birth of Jesus

1 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 their 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 bornand she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 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.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.

I love to imagine the scenes of this story unfolding and sensing the disruptive circumstances placed on the young expecting couple.  I admire them for their faith, their obedience, and their trust in God throughout the entire ordeal – thrust upon them at the most inopportune time. I wonder if they knew it had to be this way – that the birth of their son had to occur at “the set place.” Did they consider the prophecies of scripture as they packed their belongings for the journey south to the City of David? Were they excited about how God had orchestrated these events according to His will? It really is hard to imagine if they understood the significance of this turn in the road … their lack of resources to make the journey … and Mary so close to delivery. I feel so humbled when I think of them … the hardships they endured. Yet, I somehow believe they were so close to God in those circumstances and felt a great peace within themselves.  Somehow, they knew in their hearts the sovereignty of God was trustworthy. Perhaps Mary recalled the what the Angel Gabriel had spoken to her: “No word from God will ever fail.” (Cf. Luke 1:37)

Yes, Jesus arrived! His advent is sure and well documented. And we know on this side of history all that transpired in His life … the purpose for which He was sent by God … and His final words: “It is finished….” (Cf. John 19:30) His birth … His life … His resurrection … changed the course of human destiny forever. And it happened because Mary said, “Yes.” She responded to Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Cf. Luke 1:38) Likewise, Joseph said, “Yes.” “He did what the Angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Cf. Matthew 1:24) The plan of salvation ordained before the foundation of the world continued to unfold because of their obedience and faith! And I believe we have been called to follow their example … to walk in their footsteps. Yes, I believe the Father desires each one of us to respond “Yes” to His Son, Jesus! As Jesus affirmed, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Then, we are to follow Him. As Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) Oh, what great lessons we continue to find in the Christmas Story!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Set Place…

Matthew 2:4-6 (NIV)

When Herod had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the Prophet Micah 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 shepherd my people Israel.’” (Citing Micah 5:2)

The Messiah’s place of birth was foretold centuries before His Advent through the Prophet Micah. This would be another fulfillment revealed in the New Testament of the numerous prophesies surrounding the Messiah’s birth and His role in the plans and purposes of God foretold in the Old Testament scriptures.  I want to reprint our prophetic Verse of the Day in its context for us:

Micah 5:2-4 (NIV)

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

Notice how God chose a “small” clan from the tribe of Judah … from whom David and the lineage of the kings of Israel descended. This speaks to the human meekness of the Messiah to come … whose human origins would reflect these humble circumstances. Jesus’ mother, Mary, testified of her own poverty in The Magnificat (Cf. Luke 1:46-55) when she reflected that God “has been mindful of the humble state of His servant,” and that God “has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up (exalted) the humble.” And I love that the Prophet Micah also affirms the origins of the Messiah are “from of old, from ancient times.” To me, this speaks to the divinity of the Messiah to come … whose eternal origin would be reflected in His self-existence. The Apostle John articulates this theological truth as he opens his Gospel narrative: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” And, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (Cf. John 1:1-2, 14)

Because this prophecy references a ruler – a king over Israel – we have a better understanding of the “threat” that King Herod perceived to his own governance over the land of Palestine in those days. His internal fears led him to order the genocide of all the males born in that region who were two years old and under….

Matthew 2:1-18 (NIV)

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi (interpreted wise men) from the East came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose 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 Messiah 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 shepherd my people Israel.’” (Cf. Micah 5:2-4) 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 search carefully 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 when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 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, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 13 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.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 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.”(Cf. Hosea 11:1) 16 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. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “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.” (Cf. Jeremiah 31:15)

When we evaluate the inspired narrative preserved for us, and as we see how prophesies are fulfilled in great detail and accuracy, we are led to the same conclusion as the New Testament writers: Jesus IS the promised Messiah … the Holy One of Israel. There is enough evidence (fulfilled prophecy) along with the eyewitness accounts of His resurrection to convince us that Jesus IS who He claimed to be … the Son of God … the Word of God … who was with God from the beginning! So, as we reflect on the prophecies about the Jesus, I pray that these testimonies will affirm in our hearts the message of Christmas IS Jesus – and Jesus alone! The supernatural miracle of His birth … the humble circumstances of His birth … the poverty of His parents, yet the riches of their obedient faith … the redemptive purpose for which He was sent to dwell among us … all of these reflections should fill us with exceedingly great joy! Indeed, Jesus is the reason we can rejoice in God our Savior! O Come Let Us Adore Him!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/01/19

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

This verse from is probably a familiar one for most of us.  It is a doctrinal pillar for the Judeo-Christian faith and distinguishes monotheism (belief in a single God) and pantheism (belief in many gods).  If we went back into human history, Adam and Eve, would have testified to only one God … the One who walked and fellow-shipped with them in the cool of the day each morning.  Noah believed in the one God; and his reverence compelled him to build an ark to save all living creatures from the appointed judgment (Epic Flood) God would inflict upon the earth for the continual evil intentions and thoughts of their hearts … including the worship of other gods and idols. If we continue up until the time of Abraham, there are diverse human cultures and civilizations had developed belief systems that included multiple gods – most of whom represented celestial bodies, animals,  forces of nature, and human ideas which led to the creation of idols.  Except for a remnant of the Adamic lineage, it appears most people had abandoned the one, true God who is the Creator … who is the Lord.

In some of the earliest literature contained in our canon of Scripture, we can find this philosophical and theological chasm between monotheism and pantheism.  The Book of Job, for instance, is the oldest inspired narrative recorded in the Bible according to most scholars.  It was written before Moses even penned the Torah (Pentateuch – the first five books of the 24 Books of the Tanakh).  Job believes in and dialogues with one God; and of course; Moses develops an entire structure of worship for the “I AM” or self-existent One under holy inspiration.   And so along with other records from the contemporary period (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) we find the Jewish descendants holding firm to faith in the “one” true God.  He is not a plethora or composite of many gods, but a single, self-existent being who created all that is seen and unseen – with a unique, revealed purpose for the people He created “in His image”.

While we understand and believe that God is One … there is language found in the Scriptures that might suggest something other than one unique, self-existent Creator.  We can find it in the Book of Genesis … the foundational construction (the beginning) and explanation of how human existence came into being.  The first sentence … Verse 1 … states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  The word translated “God” here in our English bibles is the word “Elohim”.  It is a plural form of the general name “El” as used for God in the Ancient Near East.  So when we arrive at Verse 26, we see the plural form used again, “Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness….”  Yet, in Verse 27 we read the singular form, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  I mention these distinctions not to imply an inconsistency in the concept of God or His nature; rather, the two forms to me will actually affirm a singleness or oneness of the revealed nature of God in the whole of Scripture.  The trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) and the unity (God) are evident in the inspired language used to impart this theological concept to us.

While the word “trinity” is not used in the Bible; its applicability to our understanding of the “One” God is revealed when Jesus Christ boldly declares His oneness with the Father in John 10:30.  And when Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in Luke 12:10, He taught that anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  In essence, Jesus implied that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was blasphemy against God.  When the resurrected Jesus gave “parting” instructions to the disciples in Matthew 28:19, He instructed them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…. 

The name of God is the unifying image or concept of three beings of the same substance or nature … if you will.  God is One, but He manifests or reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit.  Jesus taught us that God is Spirit in John 4:24. When Jesus prayed for His disciples as recorded in John 17:11-12, He said, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.”  I find it interesting that we can infer here that the name of the Holy Father is the name given to the Son – Jesus.  The interpretation here does not have to literal (i.e. the name Jesus).  But think of it in these terms, the name (image or nature) of the Father is the same name (image or nature) given to the Son.  The concept is still the unity of oneness of the Father and the Son … as well as the Holy Spirit as we will see.

So where am I going with this train of thought?  The OT Scripture declares God is one – but it reveals that God is plural in His nature and in the sense of His self-revelation to man.  Mankind is commanded to love God … the Lord our God … with all of our heart, soul, and strength.  Contrast with the NT Scripture and the declaration in 1 John 5:1 which reads, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well.  When you and I love Jesus with all of our heart, soul, and strength … we fulfill the commandment of God.  Perhaps the following passage will better explain what I am trying to share here:

John 16:7-15; 25-28 (NIV)

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father Himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

So, the message I want to share is that God (Father, Son, and Spirit) has revealed Himself to us … to all people … in “forms” or “persona” that we can understand in order to have the fellowship and life He desires for us to have and experience.  He has made known His passionate, everlasting love for us.  And though we should respond with like passion … I believe if we were honest… we often fail to love God as we ought … with ALL of our heart, soul, and strength.  But I hope we might consider that God has given us relational ways to experience Him AND to express our love to Him.  Profoundly and literally, Jesus the Son, has truly shared our human form.  And Jesus said “the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”  So, again, we have an Advocate who is relational to us as well.  And as we pray to the Father, I believe our own spirits can feel connected to Him as approach His throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Cf. Hebrews 4:16)

There is so much we do not know and will never know about God.  But instead of focusing on what remains mysterious, let us delight ourselves in all He has revealed.  We have creation itself which reveals God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature. (Romans 1:20).  We have Jesus Christ the Son who is the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15) And we have the Holy Spirit … the gift from God (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:4; 2:38; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19).  He is the seal of our redemption through Christ Jesus … who is the only way to the Father.  I pray that we will walk in the knowledge we do have … and love the Lord our God with ALL of our hearts, souls, and minds as He has empowered us to do….  Amen.

So Know You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!