Tag Archives: Jesus

A Shepherd’s Response

“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 2:15-20).

The shepherds were truly changed by their encounter with the Lord. Luke says they returned to their flocks praising God. This is not the only time we see a life changed due to an encounter with the Lord. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, and Saul became Paul after coming across the Lord. Perhaps your life has been changed by the Lord’s grace also. It is impossible to find the Lord and walk away the same way you came.

Make sharing your joy and faith a part of your holiday celebrations this year. God did not make a mistake sending the angel to the shepherds. The birth of the Messiah was an event causing great joy for all people. The shepherds started spreading the joy they experienced, and you and I should continue spreading that joy.

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Because of Christmas

I was recently inspired by the below story from DavidsDailyDose.

“During WWII, Matsuko and her family were among the many Japanese Americans forcibly interred in camps. For three years she longed to return to the farm near Salinas, CA where her husband Hayato’s family had grown strawberries for three generations. It was home.

Finally, the war ended and the Nakamura family returned. But as they stood across the road from their once well kept farm, it was clear all was not well. The strawberry fields surrounding their home were overgrown and the front door of the house gaped wide open.

Thankfully, a kind neighbor saved all the farm equipment, but the house had been ransacked. Almost everything of value had been either looted or destroyed.

Matsuko was particularly distressed that the pillagers smashed all of her mother’s china. Not one plate, cup, or saucer survived intact. She began that same day to sort the broken pieces, putting them carefully back together with glue.

One day her young son, Kato, asked her why she was going to so much trouble. After all, she’d only been able to patch together a few plates.

I must take things broken apart and make them whole again.

Matsuko Nakamura”

“Because of Christmas, broken lives can be put together again.”

This was my thought as I was reading. Because of Christmas, we have the opportunity to take the shattered pieces of this life and glue them back together. The Lord knows of our need, and he was willing to become one of us to help.

“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 1:14).

Thanks, David, for sharing.

Visitors at the Door

Peering into the stars, the scholars noticed something different and amazing one night. As they researched, their familiarity with the Scriptures caused them to follow the star. They knew a Messiah was coming, and they wanted to see him. Their journey took them to the land of King Herod, who asked a lot of questions, and eventually, their journey took them to the home of Mary and Joseph.

Matthew 2 records, “After this interview, the wise men went their own way, and the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped at the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshipped him, then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route. For God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.”

These wise men’s example offers some pointers for anyone desiring to deepen in our relationship with the Lord.

  • They were sensitive to the Lord’s leading. When they saw the star, they followed it. They didn’t ignore the prompting of the Lord. Do we pay enough attention to the Lord to know when he is prompting us?
  • They worshipped the Lord. The wise men realized who they were in comparison to the Lord, so they offered the Messiah praise. How often do we thank the Lord for what he has done for us?
  • Matthew tells us the wise men shared with the Lord. They shared gold, which is something of value, and frankincense and myrrh, which are incense. For us, we can share the gold of our time and talents with the Lord and the incense of our prayers with him.

As you think of the wise men’s example, try putting these pointers into practice in your walk with the Lord.

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Different Views of Christmas

Given the opportunity to have a conversation with one of the characters from the Christmas account, who would you choose? I was recently asked this question, and it spurred my thinking. The people starring in Jesus’ birth story would have witnessed the events from a wide array of perspectives, yet we see much faith shine through each perspective.

Mary

Mary obviously plays a crucial role, being the young mother of Jesus. This would have been a lot for her to take on, but she does in a faithful way. Luke records the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to reveal her part in God’s grand plan. Luke 1:28 says, “The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

After reassuring Mary his visit was to bring good news, Gabriel explained how she would be the mother of Jesus, and reminded Mary God can do anything. Mary was an ordinary girl, but she was given an extraordinary part to play in God’s plan. We know she inquired about the virgin birth, but we can only imagine what else went through Mary’s mind’ as she listened to the angel’s words.

She would have to explain this to Joseph. A pregnancy can’t be easily hidden, and people would speculate about her as they would not understand what the Lord was doing. This would have been a lot for Mary to process, and she may have not fully grasped it, but because of her faith, Mary was willing to offer herself as a servant. She realized fulfilling her purpose would have rough parts, but she trusted the Lord to be with her during those times. 

Joseph

Joseph would have to take on much in his role. Joseph was certainly put in a unique spot. Hisfiance was pregnant, but the baby wasn’t his. As Joseph was struggling with what to do, he was faithful to the Lord’s calling. Matthew 1 tells us Joseph was going to divorce Mary, but listened when the Lord told him to stay. Joseph’s response in this moment truly demonstrates his faithfulness.

Shepherds

The shepherds could have stayed in the field with their sheep and dismissed the angel’s message, but they had a different response. “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 shepherds’ faith shined through brightly.

Magi

The Magi allowed their faith to push them. As they were studying the stars, they could have ignored the star introducing Jesus as another supernova, but they chose to seek the answer to why the star suddenly appeared. Their faith pushed them to investigate God’s Word.

Each of these characters has a different perspective of Jesus’ birth, but they all respond with much faith. As we all approach life from differing perspectives, we should share this commonalty with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi. We should approach the Lord with faith. The writer of Hebrews reminds us the Lord rewards those who earnestly seek him.

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Trading Spaces

The show Trading Spaces gives couples a chance to trade houses with a neighbor for a few days. They trade so that each couple can give a make-over to a room in the other’s home. New paint, wall hangings, and furniture usually go into place, and at the end of each episode, the couples go back home to offer their reaction to the newly decorated space. Sometimes it turns out well. Other times not so much. Trading spaces can mean giving up something valuable.

It did for Jesus. The Bible teaches he traded places with us. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Allow these words to dwell in your mind for a moment.

Jesus had everything. He was not confined by time or space; he did not have the limits of our bodies. He was in Heaven and had it made, yet he was willing to trade spaces with us. He traded all of Heaven’s perfection for all of this world’s imperfection. He did this so we could experience Heaven.

His trading spaces allows us the opportunity to have a spiritual make-over. Through Christ, all the richness and fullness of Heaven awaits us. All the difficulties of this world will give way to no more pain, sorrow, or suffering. The imperfection will give way to perfection because Jesus traded spaces.

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Wishing You A Very Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:11 says, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”

You and I have been given a gift. The gift is Jesus. Jesus brings the gift of grace. He came to help us. Jesus did not stand at the top of the mountain and tell us to climb. He came down to hold our hand as we climbed. Jesus did not stand on the opposite side of a gulf and tell us to cross the bridge. He came across to help us. Jesus came as our Christmas gift.

The angel’s good news to the shepherds is for you and me also. As you celebrate today, I hope you have a moment to reflect on the gift of Jesus.

I appreciate you spending part of your day reading this, and I hope you have a blessed and merry Christmas. Please share this post.

Good News of Great Joy

The sun had set, and the shepherds were gathered around a small fire keeping warm in the darkness and coolness of night. Their sheep resting close by. It seemed like an ordinary night, but suddenly it became extraordinary. The darkness was pierced by the light of an angel, and the shepherds were terrified. Who can blame them? The darkness of night interrupted by the brilliance of an angel is enough to make the hair on anyone’s neck stand on edge.

“But the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David. And you will recognize him by this sign: you will find a baby, wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger.’ Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast host of others, the armies of Heaven, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest Heaven and peace on earth with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:10-14).

Good news of great joy is what the shepherds needed. We all need good news of great joy, especially in the darkness of this era. Everywhere we turn we find negative headlines, but Christmas is a reminder there is good news, joyous news that is for everyone. This good news is Jesus. He is our way to peace with God.

The Bible says, “Do not let your hearts be trouble, but present your requests and petitions to God in prayer. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Because of Christmas, we can take the anxieties of this world and hand them over to the Lord. We can rest in the peace he offers.

The shepherds were the first to receive good news of great joy, but it is also for you and me. Allow the light of the Lord to pierce the darkness around you and bring you peace this Christmas season.

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The Extent of God’s Love

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.”

Christmas shows the extent of God’s love. The Lord has such a sacrificial love for you and I that he came to us.

The Gospel of John reminds us the Lord became human and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14), and we know from the Bible, he gave up much to come be with us. Philippians 2 says Jesus did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but he gave it up in humility so he could be with us. All this out of love; John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave 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 the world but to save it.”

You see, Christmas is the result of God’s love. It demonstrates how close the Lord will come to help us. He is right beside us helping us.

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Peace in Uncertain Times

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They were afraid. The last hours and days have been anything but restful. Some in the group narrowly escaped fighting and arrest a few nights ago as an angry mob arrested their leader Jesus. They watched as the mob had him tortured and executed. They know his tomb is empty, but they are unsure of how or why. Thoughts of peace are replaced with a constant wondering about the next happening and how to get away from those who are against them. They do not know who is the next to be arrested or even worse, so they are gathered behind locked doors in a secret location plotting a path forward.

The disciples are consumed by fear and anxiety, but Jesus does not leave them alone. John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

As the disciples are sitting in an anxious and fear-filled room, Jesus shows up to bring peace. The peace Jesus brings to the disciples is for the past, present, and future. They are surrounded by uncertainty, yet Jesus says they can have peace. And, the peace Jesus brings on this night is the same peace he offers to us.

We live in uncertain times. Some folks struggle with letting go of past mistakes, while others are fearful of the future. To all though, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus offers peace with God. Through his work on the cross, Jesus bridged the gulf between man and God.  Scripture helps us understand.

  • “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us,” points out Paul in Ephesians 2:18.
  • He writes in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”
  • And Romans 8:1 proclaims, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Because of Christ, we can have peace with God. Yesterday’s mistakes are forgiven and forgotten, so we don’t need to feel guilty any longer. Just look at what he did for Peter.

Peter boldly stated he would never deny Jesus; he would follow him to the very end, but when pressure mounted, Peter crumbled. He denied Jesus not once but three times, and after the third time, Mark says, “Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.” Peter knew he made a mistake. The Lord also knew Peter made a mistake, yet Jesus brought Peter peace. He was present when Jesus appeared to the disciples, and the Gospel writers tell us Jesus appeared to Peter earlier in the day, restoring their relationship. Peter did not have the power to make peace with God, so Jesus did it for him.

To spite his failures and all that Peter had done wrong, Jesus brings him peace with God. Can you imagine the relief Peter must have felt?

What about you? You know you’ve made mistakes; perhaps you remind yourself of it daily. The Lord also knows you’ve made mistakes, yet Jesus comes bearing the greeting, “Peace be with you.” You and I did not have the power to make peace with God, so Jesus did it for us. To spite the failures and mistakes of the past, Jesus gives us peace with God, and he freely gives it to us. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “I am leaving you a gift,” and that gift is peace with God.

It is in knowing the Lord is walking with us that we find peace for the future. Again, Scripture helps us understand.

  • “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus,” writes Paul in Philippians 4:7.
  • Notice again Jesus’ words in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Because of an empty tomb, you and I can have peace even if it is a turbulent time. The world may be swirling around us, but no matter what happens, the victory is ours through Christ. Remember the promise of Romans 8:37, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Jesus isn’t leaving us alone to struggle. He is coming along side us and saying, “Peace be with you!”

Appearing to the Brokenhearted

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The events of the past few days have certainly been difficult. Watching someone you are close to suffer the excruciating horror of crucifixion is enough to make even the hardest person’s emotions raw. For those close to Jesus, the grieving process had to pause a bit because of the Sabbath, but now that it is over, it is time to pick up where they left off earlier: visiting the tomb to ensure a proper burial. The Gospel writers tell us Jesus’ friends headed to the cemetery as soon as the sun was rising and the Sabbath was ending. Heartbroken, they didn’t want to waste any time.

John’s Gospel specifically tells us Mary Magdalene was the first to go and realize the tomb was empty. Mary thinks she’s going to ensure a proper burial, but she finds an empty tomb and neatly folded linens with no Jesus. What happens next shows us the compassion the Lord has for the broken-hearted.

John 20 records, “Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

Mary is seeing something here that looks an awful lot like the Ark of the Covenant. Prior to now, the Ark of the Covenant, which represents the Lord’s presence, was only accessible in the Holy of Holies, and only one day a year by one person – the High Priest. But not now! The presence of the Lord is accessible to this heart broken woman.

She is not the High Priest nor is she in the Holy of Holies. She is a common person standing in a garden, outside an empty tomb, in tears because she doesn’t know what is happening. The person she cared about so deeply was ripped from her life, he was tortured to death, and now she can’t even make sure he has a decent burial because he is missing. Heartache is stacked on top of her heartbreak. Can you understand how she feels?

We are certainly not strangers to this pain. Heartache comes to us in any number of ways. The person we thought we were going to marry walked away from us. The child who should have outlived us didn’t. The husband who pledged his faithfulness was anything but faithful. The spouse of 50 years was ripped from our arms by death. The pain of a broken heart is not a foreign experience.

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Yeah, I know how she feels. It is exactly how I feel today.” If so, please remember, you are not alone in this moment.

Mary’s story shows us we are not left to drown in the tears of our heartache. As she is standing there crying, Mary is not alone. John 20 continues, “She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. ” Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).”

Jesus does not leave Mary standing in the garden with tears running down her face. The tomb is empty, and Jesus is right beside Mary amid her heartbreak. He brings compassion and grace. He brings encouragement and comfort. Jesus brings himself to the heartbroken Mary, and he brings himself to those who are heartbroken today.

Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

When our hearts are broken, we can look to an empty tomb and find a Savior who comes to the heartbroken. Just like he was with Mary amid her heartbreak, he is with us amid our heartbreak. The same accessibility and compassion are present. Jesus does not flee from the heartbroken; he comes to us. Jesus is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those with a crushed spirit.

Because of an empty tomb, you and I do not have to be alone in our pain. We can allow the Lord to come close and rescue our crushed spirit.