Tag Archives: Grace

baby is born

A census had been ordered, and everyone was to return to their hometown to register. For Joseph, that meant traveling the 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This was a 3-day trip, and it would be more difficult because Mary was expecting a child. The couple made the trip, and Luke’s Gospel records the birth of the child happening while Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem.

Luke 2:6-7 records, “And while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them.”

This was certainly not an ideal situation from our perspective. Making a 3-day journey to give birth among the goats and sheep was probably not on Mary’s bucket list; however, the Lord used this “less than ideal” situation to bring salvation to the world. Amazingly the Creator of the world allowed himself to be a baby lying in a manger among the livestock. God was quietly at work.

There are many take-aways for you and me in Jesus’ birth. Here are just 2.

  1. Christmas shows the extent of God’s love. God had such a sacrificial love for the world that he came to us to help rather than stay at a distance. John 3:16-17 says God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his son into the world to condemn it but to save it. Christmas comes out of love for you and me.
  2. The setting for Jesus’ birth is not one in which you would expect a king to be born, but the Savior is born. God used a livestock area as the first throne room and a manger as the first throne. We wouldn’t expect God to show up in this situation, but he did. There are many situations which seem less than ideal from our perspective, yet God shows up to do some mighty work. God is always at work.

Much happen on that first Christmas night. We see the extent of the Lord’s love and are reminded he can work no matter the circumstances. In spite of everything happening around us this Christmas season, try to take a moment to rejoice in the truth that a Savior has been born to us.

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perfect love caused christmas

“At the beginning of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown is in sad shape. It’s Christmas, and he knows he should be happy, because the pond is open for skating and he likes getting Christmas cards, but something doesn’t feel right, especially after Snoopy has entered a doghouse-decorating contest and his little sister is asking Santa Claus for money in the form of Hamiltons and Jacksons.

The commercialization of Christmas has left our hero searching for answers. For a five-cent co-payment—and the beautiful sound it makes rolling around in the can—neighborhood psychiatrist Lucy suggests some possible diagnoses for Charlie Brown’s depression.”

Lucy offers some suggestions for Charlie Brown’s depression as defined here, and eventually concludes Charlie Brown has Pantophobia. This is the fear of everything.

What is causing you to have fear this year?

Charlie Brown is not the only one who struggles this time of year. Christmas can be an emotional time. We celebrate Christ’s birth, but paralleled to our celebration can be feelings of loneliness and emptiness for many people. These are real emotions, so I certainly do not want to minimize them in any way. In fact, I wish I had a “magical” answer that could take away these emotions at Christmas time. Obviously, I don’t, but I can offer one piece of encouragement from God’s Word.

1 John 4:18 says, “Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”

It was this perfect love that caused Christmas. The Bible teaches Jesus was willing to leave the majesty of Heaven to be with us to save us. It is in this perfect love we find the Lord’s mercy and grace. It is in this perfect love we find the absence of fear, especially the fear of judgment. In this perfect love, Jesus says we are his friends, and we can be open with him.

This means we can talk with the Lord about feelings of loneliness and emptiness. This means he will be with us even if it is not a joyous time of year. God’s perfect love is what caused Christmas, and it is his perfect love that will carry us through the difficulties of the season. Jesus longs for you and me to shelter ourselves in his perfect love this Christmas season.

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Visited & Redeemed

Jesus’ birth is a miracle, and leading up to his coming, the Lord performed another miracle through Zachariah and Elizabeth. Luke’s Gospel tells us they were older, so no one expected them to have a child. The Lord had another plan though. As the Lord promised to Zachariah in the temple, Elizabeth gave birth to a son. As everyone was celebrating the birth, Zachariah helps us see his son, John, was going to be a forerunner for someone awesome!

Zachariah says in Luke 1:68-70, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.” Many were waiting, and now it was time for the Lord’s visit and redemption.

Has Visited

The Bible teaches Jesus is the one who has come from God full of mercy and truth. John 1:14-17 says, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness, and we have seen his glory – the glory of the Father’s One and Only son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, ‘This is the one I was talking about when I said someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am. For he existed long before me.’ From his abundance we have received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ!”

Charles Stanley writes, “Jesus is far more than just a great teacher or a mighty prophet. In fact, he is God with us. Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature because he is God himself. Whatever Jesus does, he does with grace. Whatever he says, he says in truth. If you want to understand what God is like, look to Jesus.”

John 1:18 teaches, “No one has ever seen God, but the unique one who is himself God is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” He has revealed God’s grace and truth, and he has come to be with us. He has come to redeem us.

Has Redeemed

Zachariah said the Lord sent a mighty Savior. Another way to say it is the Lord has risen a horn of salvation for us. Jesus has come with all power and might to be on our side. If God is for us, who can be against us? No one! The Lord is more powerful than anyone or anything. He has come to save us. The work is already done, and the gift of redemption is under God’s Christmas tree. We just have to receive it.

As you open all your gifts this year, consider opening the gift of God’s grace.

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how to respond like a shepherd?

The sheep were asleep. The shepherds were gathered around a small fire talking as some of them dozed off. The stillness of the night was suddenly interrupted by an angelic visit. The angel brought news that a Savior had been born. The shepherds listened intently as the angel spoke, and when the angel had left them, they hurried to investigate this news.

The shepherds’ response to the angel’s news is worthy of modeling. As their initial terror subsided, the shepherds responded with much faith and overflowing joy.

“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” (Luke 2:15-16).

The shepherds responded to the angel with much faith. Believing the angel, the shepherds acted upon their belief. The writer of Hebrews says the Lord rewards those who earnestly seek him. How are you and I responding to the Lord in faith? Are we taking him at his word and allowing our curiosity to spur us on to see his promises fulfilled?

Along with their faith, the shepherds experienced overflowing joy. “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” (Luke 2:17-19).

The shepherds were so filled with joy they could not keep it to themselves. They had seen the Lord, and they wanted to share their joy with everyone. As you and I find the joy of the Lord, we should attempt to share it.

We can share our joy in an appealing way. We can share our joy by starting a Pay-It-Forward chain at our favorite coffee shop. We can help purchase Christmas gifts for a family who otherwise would not have gifts. We could prepare a shoe box gift for Operation Christmas Child. We can call to check on a neighbor who may experience loneliness this time of year. There are many ways we can share our joy, and this is the perfect season to share it.

Many have commented they will be glad when 2020 enters the history books. It has been a sad and difficult year for lots of folks. It seems they may be hungry for joy and hope more this year than before, and the joy of the Lord can be prevalent in our lives. We can be like the shepherds and spread joy.

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why shepherds?

Another night had come. The little town was crowded by travelers passing through on their way to register for the nation-wide census. A young couple came into town looking for a place to stay, but they were later than most. There was no room in the inn, they were directed to the nearby stable to find lodging.

As they were seeking rest in the stable, 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 guest room available for them” (Luke 2:7). The routine of their travels was interrupted by the joyous birth of a baby.

Meanwhile, a short distance outside of town, shepherds had their sheep bedded down for the night. A small fire was providing warmth and light. The activities of the night were routine. The shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks as always until the routine of their night was interrupted by an angel.

“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 that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, 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 Heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:9-14). This was the birth announcement of Jesus Christ, and it was delivered in a powerful way to – of all people – shepherds.

Shepherds were not thought of highly; they were considered to be social outcasts. The occupation required a nomadic, isolated lifestyle. As their sheep grazed, shepherds had to continually move to stay in green pastures. They had to live with their vulnerable flocks, so they could remain aware of needs and threats.

Shepherds were even accused of blurring the lines of right and wrong. Perhaps they helped themselves to a lamb or two as flocks multiplied on the pastures. Accusations allowed as this was a socially unaccepted group. Yet, they were the first to hear good news that would cause great joy for all people.

The world is the Lord’s palate; he could have chosen any method to announce the birth of Jesus Christ. He could have made an audible announcement from the Heavens. He could have appeared to a king, emperor, or pharaoh. He could have revealed it to the religious leaders of the day, but he chose a different way to make the announcement. He instructed an angel to appear to a group of socially outcast shepherds staying approximately 2 miles outside of Bethlehem.

“Why shepherds,” one might ask. From the very moment of his appearance, grace permeated from Christ Jesus. This announcement only begins to illustrate how this good news will be for all people. The Lord’s message is not just for a select few, but everyone. And, you and I can learn much from the shepherds and their response.

The Unaccepted Were Welcomed

As social outcasts, society may have shunned the shepherds, but the Lord welcomed them with open arms. Perhaps you can relate to the shepherds. You do not feel welcome by various people and groups. If so, remember, the Lord welcomes you with open arms. The Messiah’s birth was announced first to a group considered to be outcasts.

As Christians, you and I should possess the same welcoming spirit. We should welcome others with open arms. Their lives may be messy and we know the Lord can cause change, but first, they have to find the safety of God’s grace.

A mother recently posted on Facebook her young daughter had made friends with the neighbor boy. The mother was uncomfortable because the boy’s family was nothing like her own. Their living conditions were less than ideal, and the boy would use inappropriate language without knowing it. After all, he heard those words frequently.

One Saturday, the mother was cooking lunch while the kids played. She was okay with it because her husband was in the yard with the kids. When lunch was ready, she called her crew, and the boy asked if he could come too.

Her instinct was to send him home until after lunch, but something compelled her to welcome the young boy and give him a seat at the table. The boy was a little dirty. His clothes were torn and his shoes were worn. His fingernails in need of a trim. As they ate lunch, they tried to have a conversation.

School was about to begin for the year, so the mother asked the boy if he was excited to start the first grade. “No,” the boy replied. “School can be a scary place for a guy like me.”

The mother’s heart sank as a thought pressed on her mind like a ton of bricks. “If school was not a safe place, and home was probably not a safe place, where was this child’s safe place?”

They finished eating and everyone went outside except the mother. She stayed in to cleanup and cry. She told the boy he was welcome in their home any time. There are many people seeking a safe place, and as the hands and feet of Christ, we should have the same welcoming spirit the shepherds experienced on Christmas night.

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baby brings forgiveness

Anna speaks of forgiveness.

It was an exciting day. Eight-day-old Jesus has been brought to the temple for his circumcision to fulfill the law, and much has occurred. Simeon and Anna have been waiting for this day, and Simeon has spoken about the comfort and peace Jesus brings. Now, it is Anna’s turn.

As Mary and Joseph are still pondering Simeon’s words, Anna comes along. Luke 2:38 says, “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.” While Simeon sees comfort and peace in Jesus, Anna sees forgiveness.

The idea of redemption for Anna pointed to the captivity of the Old Testament. Especially to the Egyptian bondage and Israel’s redemption through the Passover. Ultimately, Passover points ahead to Christ redeeming Christians from the slavery of sin. When Anna saw Jesus she gave thanks to God, and spoke to anyone who would listen about his redemption. Here, at last, was the one who would save his people from their sins. Here, through Jesus, was forgiveness.

Perhaps 2020 has been the year of mistakes. You beat yourself up daily because past mistakes constantly fly up in your face. Jesus offers forgiveness and freedom from those mistakes. Forgiveness came on the first Christmas. “Today in the town of David,” the angel reported to the shepherds, “a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Take time today to allow and reflect on the forgiveness offered through Christ.

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Love Endures

Love conquers all.

Dear Hate by Maren Morris is a powerful reminder of hate’s grip and love’s conquering power.

The battle between hate and love has existed since Adam and Eve were in the garden. The disgusting work of hate ensnares us, but love has the power to conquer everything. Love conquers the divides between people, love heals the wounds inflicted by hate, and love mends the broken heart. Love has the power to overcome anything hate throws our way.

1 Corinthians 13:6-8 says, “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

The Bible gives us a glimpse into the end of the battle between hate and love. Love conquers all. God is love and nothing has the power to stand in his way. His grace and mercy will win.

Meanwhile, as the battle rages, you and I have the challenge to be messengers of love.

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Portrait of Grace

He gave to his enemies.

Saul was after David. He felt threatened by David, but Saul is eventually mortally wounded. David becomes king. He establishes his kingdom, and gives us a striking picture of salvation by grace and true friendship.

Meet Mephibosheth. We do not know much about him. He was the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. This would have put him in line for the throne, so when Saul was killed, Mephibosheth’s family feared for his safety.

In those days, one of the first acts of a new king was to eliminate any threat from the previous king’s family, so Saul’s family was obviously in a hurry to hide.

2 Samuel 4:4 records, “Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who was crippled as a child. He was 5-years-old when the report came from Jezrell that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled, but as she hurried away, she dropped him and he became crippled.”

David did not have any plans to follow tradition of killing the previous king’s family; however, Saul’s family had no way of knowing David’s plans. They hurried, dropping the boy and causing permanent damage to his feet.

For nearly two decades, Mephibosheth lived in a distant land. He was afraid of David, and he was unable to help himself. That is, until grace entered the picture.

David remembered his promise to Jonathan, and fulfilled it through Mephibosheth. David invited Mephibosheth to eat at the king’s table; this was a great honor. David gave Mephibosheth servants and land. In short, David took care of Mephibosheth’s needs.

Sound familiar?

Like Mephibosheth

There are some paralleles between Mephibosheth’s story and our story. We too had needs which were unmet, and we were unable to help ourselves. God, in his grace through Christ, invited us to his table. He offered us salvation to meet our needs.

Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”

Like David

In many ways, we are also like David. During the course of our lives, we will come into contact with people who have needs. The Lord may use us to meet those needs. When we are tasked with meeting those needs, may we respond with the same grace we have been shown.

 

Enabling Grace

David was reminded of God’s grace.

David was in a season of turmoil. His family was a mess; there were many reasons for the messiness, and one of David’s advisors wanted to help him clean it up. He drafted a woman to tell David a parable.

The parable consisted of a widow with two sons. One son murdered the other, and the community shouted for the murderer’s head. If he was convicted, the widow would have no hope of continuing her family line. She pleads for mercy from the king.

David compassionately says she should receive mercy. Then, the woman applies the parable to David’s situation.

She points out David has a banished son needing reconciliation, and reminds David God himself makes plans to enable a banished person to be reconciled to the Lord. 2 Samuel 14:14 says, “All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again, but God does not just sweep life away. Instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”

Mistakes; they have been made. Regrets exist. The list of things we would not do or redo can be extensive, but God knows how to handle all of it.

God has devised a plan to restore us to the family.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his son into the world, not to judge the world but to save the world through him,” Jesus explains in John 3:16-17.

Jesus also says in John 10:10, “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Jesus is the plan which enables man and God to reconcile.

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An Overcoming Character

The twists and turns of life often create barriers and hurtles needing overcome. The path to success is blocked by any number of obstacles forcing you and me to take a different route. The challenges posed by finding an alternate route can overwhelm and discourage us.

Thankfully, we are not alone. Many have overcome obstacles and barriers to find their way to success. Their stories can serve as encouragement to you and me. The Bible gives us examples of people who overcame life’s difficulties to fulfill their purpose.

Ruth went into the unknown.

Ruth is one of those overcomers. Her life seemed to be ordinary. A native of Moab, Ruth fell in love with a young man from Bethlehem. He and his family moved to Moab to escape a famine, and he was smitten by Ruth’s beauty and character. The two were married, but it wasn’t long before life challenged Ruth.

Her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law died leaving Ruth and her relatives as widows. Naomi, her mother-in-law, decided to return to Bethlehem, and Ruth had to decide what she was going to do. Ruth had to decide which direction to go; stay in Moab or go with Naomi into the unknown.

Stay or go?

For Ruth, this was a pivotal moment. The choice she made here was going to chart the course of her future. This was a big decision. It could have easily been overwhelming and discouraging. Can you relate?

Life is going well, but suddenly, it changes. You and I are pushed into a moment of change and required to make decisions charting our future. It is an overwhelming feeling and can be discouraging, especially if we thought the path to success was clear. Ruth illustrates the best approach for us.

Ruth allowed character to determine her direction.

To spite being overwhelmed, Ruth allowed her character to determine her direction. She was unselfish and loyal, so she went with Naomi into the unknown. Naomi was at an age where she was going to need help and Ruth believed she could be of assistance, so she went to Bethlehem. Her character propelled her into the unknown.

The unknown soon became familiar.

Bethlehem soon became familiar to Ruth, and she developed a relationship with Boaz. The two were married and had a son. This put Ruth in the lineage of Jesus.

The same will be true for us. If our character pushes us into unknown territory, it will soon become familiar.

Ruth’s secret to success was character.

Ruth was able to overcome barriers in life and find success. Her secret was character. Ruth allowed her unselfishness and loyalty to move her into the unknown.

Acting

Cultivate a character that’s ready to overcome barriers. Allow your character to determine your direction rather than feelings. A properly cultivated character will help us find the path to success.

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