Jesus

This One is for Christmas

This Christmas I decided to look a bit into the different Christmas accounts in the Gospels and rediscover the miracle of the baby Jesus. From what I learned, the family of Jesus tells us so much of who God is. For example, I already did a post some time ago about the women listed in the genealogy of Jesus, but again looking at his less than perfect relatives, we recognize that he came from a godly  lineage, although their actions at times proved otherwise, yet redemption undeniably dripped heavily throughout their stories. Therefore, we shouldn’t get hung up on the skeletons and embarrassment in Jesus’ genealogy, but rather the allowance of God’s work in their lives; they may not have started well and had some rough patched in the middle, but they ended in good standing.

When we consider and apply this for our lives, we must remember that for God to work in our lives, we can’t just do what we want and think He will bless us. To receive the blessings and miracles God wants for us, we must humble ourselves and have a surrendered life to Him; he blesses our obedience and promises to exalt us as we live in humility.

Thus, it only makes sense to consider who God chose to be the earthly parents of His Only Son. Yes, God can make somebodies out of nobodies, but it’s those things that are done when no one else is looking that make the difference. To protect His Son, he had to be able to trust the woman who would be his mother and the man who would be his father. Most of us hear of the purity of Mary, which we can see in her tone and her interaction with the angel when she learned she was pregnant with the Son of God. Though ordinary, Mary was deemed worthy to birth the Christ child. Thus, it raises the question of who was considered worthy to be the head of the home in which Jesus would live, so we must look closer at the character of Joseph, Mary’s husband, Jesus’ earthly father.

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In none of the Gospels do we find any words spoken by Joseph, and some say that Joseph died before Jesus’ ministry. Nonetheless, the account of Joseph in Luke tells us all we need to know. First of all, God demonstrated his intent for the family structure being that the angel appeared to Joseph, the head of the home, telling him to keep his family together and not divorce his wife, then to leave for Egypt, and then to return home. Subsequently, not once did he ask questions or second guess, but he trusted and revered the Lord enough to do immediately as he was mandated.

Though it applies to both men and women, I think it speaks more to women. People often diminish all of what marriage is and the impact it has on one’s life as a whole, for one reason or another. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if there were other worthy women to have carried the Christ-child but their husbands could not be trusted. How loudly does that speak to us? We have to be very selective as to who we choose to lead us, cover us, and protect what the Lord is birthing and growing inside of us. If we entertain the wrong man, get impatient, and or marry too fast or defile ourselves with someone who is not our husband, we run the chance of killing the baby inside of us, or at least delaying the miracle he has for us. If Mary’s husband was disobedient or didn’t move immediately after the angel appeared to him the second time, then who knows if they would have made it out of Bethlehem alive. And if Jesus died as a baby…

On the other hand, I can’t help but consider why we were not given more interaction with Joseph, or at least his words. My only and immediate thought is that the Author did not want to overshadow who Jesus’ Father really was, the Living God of the universe. Luke expresses his manhood and Mark tells of his servanthood, but in the same manner, Matthew expresses him as the King and John deems him as God in human form.

During Christmas, we celebrate his arrival as the foretold Messiah, but we mustn’t forget the awesomeness that this tiny baby is the soon coming King, that he is God. It’s truly the miracle of Christmas, all of eternity of heaven and earth came consumed as a tiny baby, brought in by the most ordinary but worthy man and woman of God. As we strive to be ourselves for a purpose, we must ask if the Lord would find even our ordinary, our surrendered life, to be worthy to bring forth his miracles to change history.

 

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High and Low

It’s always funny how I get overly familiar with a Bible story, then for whatever reason I go back and read it, only to find I missed so much and I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. Prime example, the transfiguration. Previously, I had just thought the story captured in Scripture was Jesus and his special disciples going up a mountain, seeing the glory, then the story closes with a time gap to the next section (depending on translation) and another story begins. Boy was I wrong!! I was encouraged to read this account in Mark 9 after reading a few devotionals from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” and I was intrigued by all I missed.

One of the first things I noticed is the fear of the disciples in the presence of Christ, up and down the mountain. It made me wonder if the fear of the Lord is merely reverence, actual fear, or a mixture of both. When I considered their moments of fear, it was definitely not a matter of reverence, but they were afraid because they didn’t know what to do or say or the response of Jesus to their actions. I think for us, it is necessary that we have a healthy balance of reverence for the Lord along with fear for His immensity. He is far above human understanding and a fear of His judgment and limitless incredible power and what He may do should inspire us to live as close to the cross as we can. Of course, as we learn the character of God that level of fear is balanced out because of His overabundant grace and overwhelming love.

The funny thing about this story is that in their fear, we see how started saying dumb stuff, for God the Father straightened Him out real quick so he couldn’t act his out, as did Jesus when he handled the dispute of the disciples who were totally missing the point of the ministry they had just been apart of and knew that they were wrong, which is why they didn’t respond to Jesus when he asked them. Without exhausting it, in our fear, we shouldn’t react, but we should instead consider Jesus and his glory so that we don’t mistake what God wants to say to us, show us, or do for us.

There really is so much in this account that I could present here, but a blog is not a book so I will refrain or just do a part two. Nevertheless, the major point that I gathered from the transfiguration story is the highs and lows of life; we can’t have one without the other. What struck me about the story is not their incredible experience on the mountain, but their immediate journey back down the mountain and into regular life.

As Chambers reflected, when we experience the high mountain-top experiences, we naturally want to stay there, but the mountain was created to prepare us for the valleys of life; we can’t stay there forever. As soon as they saw Elijah and Moses and were scolded by the Father, the experience was over, and back down the mountain they went; Jesus actually went ahead of them. If we are supposed to follow Christ, we must recognize the purpose and time necessary for the mountain.

Furthermore, there is a misconception that we leave the presence of God on the mountain, but just as Jesus went before them and walked with them down the mountain and back to reality, he will walk with us; His presence will never leave us. Just as we see when Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days fasting, right after his in depth encounter with God it was time to put what he learned to practice. For after his fast, the Devil tempted him, and immediately after their return from the high mountain, Jesus had to face problems in ministry with the other disciples.

There will be more lows in life than highs, and low doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but rather the normal every day things of life. The highs are those intense encounters we have in the presence of God, and I must admit that I couldn’t handle it if it happened every day, which is why those mountain highs last for just a weekend or a short time, as we see in Mark 9, where the majority of this chapter is not concerning the transfiguration, but what happened when they came back down. Likewise, if Jesus had stayed or if they had returned later, then that boy would not have been delivered and the disciples would have missed critical teachings and experience of the work of the Son if they would have lingered on the mountain.

As we live a life a purpose, it has to be guided and influenced by the times we spend with God on the mountain, but we can’t be stingy with what we gain there, rather, we must take those blessings and lessons and share it with others, otherwise it becomes a waste and the beauty of God can’t be share with others, encouraging them to seek the presence of God. We have a responsibility be ourselves for a purpose in lows, prepared in the highs of His presence.

No Bones Broken

Wow! It’s been far too long since I have written or posted anything, so I am so glad to be here with you in this moment as you are read this. Thus, my prayer is that you are encouraged and likewise challenged by this blog.

Side note: A great portion of what I write comes from something I read in devotional, recreational, or educational books or texts, where I have taken a point and added my own twist or expounded on it. So, I just want to encourage you to read as much as you can, because there is so much out there to be consumed that you will inevitably grow, be stretched, mature, develop, and become a better person.

Nevertheless, this particular writing is based on a short conversation I had with a co-worker of mine. In a nutshell, she has been having issues with others on the job, almost to the point where she is ready to reach back and awaken the woman she was before she met Christ. As she was dropping me at the train station she told me that she was at her breaking point. And like clock work as I was getting out the car, I said to her, “if Jesus didn’t break any bones, you don’t have to break your temper.” I know for a fact that was nothing but God, because God tends to speak to me when I am speaking and or ministering or encouraging someone else; kind of like the after effects of devotions and readings I guess.

Extra side note: I have mentioned it before, but again, recognize and learn how the Lord tends to speak to you, whether to comfort, challenge, confirm, compel, or convict, that way it becomes easier to know and discern when He is speaking or otherwise. But of course, God speaks to us in various ways in different times and situations, so the worst thing you can do is put Him in a box, so just be sensitive to His voice.

Back to the point of this post. As I considered what I had said, it was so very humbling. Thinking of all that Jesus went through on our behalf, the ripping, tearing of skin, profuse bleeding, bruising, swelling, mocking, and spitting, yet he never broke. Old Testament prophesy told us none of his bones would be broken (Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20), but I believe that it goes deeper than the physical. I mean think about it. Jesus had every right and reason to be angry, yet he never responded to the insults hurled against him, let alone did he try to get himself out of being crucified. He didn’t break emotionally, mentally, or spiritually in that the purpose, promises, or love of God through his only son would be compromised. He saw his work completed all the way through and never said a word of rebuttal.

Wow.

As we live to be ourselves for a purpose, what an awesome reminder that despite the trials, storms, and persecutions we will experience, we don’t have to crack or break under pressure assuming the power and strength of the same active Holy Spirit that carried Jesus all the way to the cross. Yes, we will be scratched, bent, bruised, mocked, lied on, persecuted, made fun of, bet against, pained, pierced, and cut – mainly metaphorical but possibly literal – but because Jesus experienced it like us, if not exceedingly more, it doesn’t have to break us. None of those things should have the ability to break the formation of what God is calling us to be, but rather empower and compel us to fully carry out the plan that God has for our lives with the work of His Spirit in us.

No bones broken. Because Jesus didn’t break, and the same resurrection power that raised him up is inside of us, though we might bend, may we never break, less the full, rich, favored, and abundant life God wants to give us be forfeited or disrupted.

As Momma Put It

In plenty of self-help and therapy philosophies of the world we are told to love ourselves or to love ourselves more, with the books2assumption that certain people legitimately don’t love themselves. Now in theory, that is good thinking, but Biblically, we never hear that, the idea is that we already love ourselves, and if anything, we are told to love ourselves less. But what about those that treat themselves badly (cutting, drugs, drinking, promiscuity, eating disorders, gambling, i.e.)?? Well when you think about it, technically they love themselves enough to try to find an outlet to feel better or no matter how much of a negative behavior it may be, the world’s philosophy is to do whatever brings you pleasure or whatever it is that makes you happy in order to love yourself. I would say that the problem is not that people don’t love themselves, but they don’t know how to do it or they love themselves way too much. Think about it. When a person cheats on their spouse or abuses them, it’s not uncommon to hear “but I do love you.” Now, in actuality, they may really love them, but they were never taught the right way. Am I excusing it? Absolutely not, but making a point.

Long story short, our definition and idea of love toward self and toward others is backwards and so far from the way God intended. So much in so that we are blinded by happiness from what love is. The problem is that happiness is a state of emotion based on a situation, which would explain why people turn over and over again to vices, because that had only a temporary high. In turn, because people are ignorant of how to love ourselves, we are utterly lost in the ability to appropriately love others. So what’s the answer?

Well, Scripture lays it out pretty clearly. To love appropriately, you must first love Jesus, because he himself is love; it was Jesus that died in our place. Jesus showed love to whoever came his way, and so in loving him by getting to know him, talking with him, spending time with him, and communing with him via his Word, it’s inevitable that you learn to love him. I mean seriously, what’s not to love? And the more we fall in love with him, the more of his love should permeate through us onto others because we will begin to imitate his incredible version of love. Once you’ve met with Jesus, you will never be the same. Once he touches you, it is bound to rub off on someone else. Now, what’s next?

Jesus’ whole ministry was built on love, even loving the least of them. So by following the way of Jesus, we learn to love others, even our enemies and love our loved ones when they are most unlovable. The first of the greatest commandments is to love God, and the second is to love others. Paul in 1 Corinthians gives a whole chapter on what love for one another looks like, and the total of the Mosaic law can be summed up in loving God and loving others. If we are to be disciples, then our love for each other should be our defining trait. It’s a matter of putting others’ needs ahead or considering them more important than your own. It’s easier said than done, but as your love for Jesus increases, so does your ability to sincerely and unconditionally love others.

Looking back at the great commandment, after loving God, you love your neighbor, then after loving your neighbor, you love yourself. Now with many of the commands God gives His people, if you really examine them they are in place to protect us and keep us in good terms. For example, being careful of what you eat, and taking care of your temple, your own body, not participating in sinful acts, or participating in things to get you caught up in bad or compromising situations. If you love yourself, you will consider these things a lot more, because worldly thinking is that following Christ is a matter of all these crazy rules and killjoys, when instead God had our best interest at heart. And if we want to love God back we will love ourselves enough to consider what He says to make us most effective in the life assigned to us. If you don’t believe me, consider all the things He said we shouldn’t do or think and more and more we are falling away, and where has that gotten us? Okay, but so what? I know, I felt myself rambling so I digress and will keep it moving.

To be  you for a purpose, you have to be anchored in love, because anything done without love, no matter how good or noble, is of no value. Therefore, let’s recap, how do we love appropriately? Love Jesus first, then love others, then love yourself. In that order. Jesus, others, yourself. Jesus. Others. You…J.O.Y. Catch my drift yet? The world’s philosophy of love is based on happiness, which is temporary; here one day, gone the next. But, when you follow God’s idea of love, you walk away with an incredible sense of joy, that the world can’t give you, nor can the world take away. My momma taught me that.

Expression

As much as I speak of being yourself for a purpose, there are clearly many things that can mean, and it’s relative to the individual. So at some point you have to consider the standard, meaning what is it that should drive every person’s life that they walk in the glory of God, being all of who God deliberately designed them to be and to what He desires you to do in such a way that only that person can? A verse I am sure I have read previously, I came across again in a devotional and it really struck me.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

expression

The context of the passage from Galatians speaks of freedom in Christ, in that there is no longer a reason to try to fit a impossible standard of perfection because of the cross. Ultimately, there is nothing about a person that makes him or her more worthy of God’s grace and His salvation than another; every one is welcome at the cross of Jesus it doesn’t matter who you are. Even before getting to the focus verse, there is the assurance of being able to be who you are at the feet of the Messiah, even if you go against how people perceive or believe you should be. The only thing that counts is your faith in the Lord God who created you that He and He alone can save you, trusting that He knew what He was doing when He created you and that He alone can satisfy you. But when it’s all said and done, what’s the proof?

Love.

Behind the person you are, the way you speak, the things you do or otherwise, it should be backed by love. Paul explained how it is all vain without love. What does that mean? It means accepting others because God accepted you. It means that you see, accept, and love yourself just as Jesus loves you, because he had something special in mind when he made you, and you live your life working toward being all he intended for you to be. It means that you love others, even those that don’t deserve it, even those that don’t reciprocate it. It means you live in the will and purpose of God because He wants to show His love to the world in a way that only you can. It means doing all you can to witness and tell others about their need of Jesus, because one day it will be too late. It means following the great commandment to love others as yourself. It means being a voice for those that can’t speak. It means giving as much as you are able, as often as you are able, understanding God blessed you to be a blessing. It means going out of your way and reaching out to those that society neglects, rejects, or are afraid of. It means loving others when no one else will because you believe in the power of the blood of Jesus to transform a life. Expressing your faith through love is being confident in the essence of who you are enough to liberate others to do the same. Expressing your faith through love is living intentionally to leave or make the world more beautiful and better than it was when you came. Expressing your faith through love is living in such a way that people no longer see you, they see Jesus manifested in your life. It simply means that you love because you love God with all your heart, soul, body, and mind. You love because He immensely and incomprehensibly loves you.

Be yourself for a purpose remembering that love is what thing that matters.