Reasonableness of Reconciliation

Grand Canyon

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  1 Peter 2:2-3

In the United States, Christians are often stereotyped as being critical, condescending, and unreasonable. Is this what God intended for His disciples?  Often times among churchgoers, we watch resentments and unforgiveness grow into estrangements.  Is this what Jesus wants for His body?

I want to invite you to crave pure, spiritual milk.   The pure milk refers to the Word, that by it we are nourished to grow up in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His grace (2 Peter 3:18).  This word “spiritual” is fascinating to me.  It means literally that we apply God’s logic to become divinely reasonable.  Craving pure spiritual milk means we apply God’s logic to our everyday lives and in so doing become divinely reasonable.

First, pure, spiritual milk helps us to apply God’s logic.  As we grow in our faith we move from understanding the gospel literally to understanding it logically.  When I became a Christ follower in 1979, I understood literally that the wages of my sin was death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord, and I wanted that.  I understood it literally.  But over the years, as I apply God’s logic to my life and I study through the principles of the gospel, I’ve moved from understanding that I need a Savior to understanding that I am the chief of sinners.  My sin caused Christ to experience the pain of God’s wrath.  My sin caused Christ to experience more pain than anyone’s sin on earth has ever caused anyone else.  And so like Paul, I can agree with him in 1 Timothy 1:15: “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.”  When we apply God’s logic, we understand what our sin has cost Christ.  It creates a humility in us that as we’ve been forgiven much, we can love much.

Secondly, pure, spiritual milk creates a divine reasonableness in us.  To be reasonable is the ability to think through things and see across to the other side of a matter.   The Grand Canyon is up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep. (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters).  The rim to rim, top to bottom to top again hike is 23 miles long and takes most hikers two to three days to complete.  The Grand Canyon is a huge chasm.

To paint a picture of the reasonableness of God, I would point to Romans 5.  It says while we were sinners, living in darkness, while we were God enemies, while we were defiant toward Him, God was living in unapproachable light, perfect in holiness and sinlessness, and He was able to see across the chasm that separated us.  He, in unapproachable light, saw us in the darkness.  He, in perfect holiness and sinlessness saw me in my rebellion and sin.  He was able to see across to the other side – that’s what it is to be reasonable.  And He made a plan even while I was separated from Him to draw me back to Him through the death of His Son.  In Genesis it says we were created in the image of the Trinity.  Of the many ways we reflect His image, one of the things that we reflect is the ability to reason.  We are the only creation of God with the ability to reason.  However, when sin came into the world, in our sinful nature, our reasonableness was broken.  In my sinful nature I see everything through my own selfishness and my own pride.  I’m not willing to see beyond myself.  When I’m able to see God’s perspective, which is different from my sinful nature, my ability to reason is reawakened.  Our reasonableness grows as we crave the pure spiritual milk, applying God’s logic to think through things.  As we consider how great a work it was to reconcile the separation that was between us and God, we begin to consider how we can participate in reconciling others separated by a great distance.

Revelation 7:9 says heaven will be filled with people from every nation, tribe, people and language.  These are people different than me!  May we apply God’s logic to become divinely reasonable.  May we come to understand that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

May we have the divine reasonableness to participate in His reconciliation.

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Dynamic, Fruitful Charisma 3, Corvettes and Caterpillars

Corvette L88 67 Renewed Restored

After being renewed and restored for 47 years, a $4,240 1967 Corvette L88 sold for $3.5 Million in 2014 at a Barrett-Jackson auction.  We place a high value on having things renewed and restored!

Genesis 1 says we were created in “Our image,” or the image of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  And because of sin, while still looking like Him (being able to walk and talk for example), we have been unable to adequately reflect His character in our sinful nature.  So God the Father sent Jesus as the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), and then following his death and resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit of Christ (Gal. 4:6, Rom. 8:9) to dwell in those who would believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord.  The Bible says that He is using every circumstance of our lives to “conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).”  Titus 3:5 says He regenerates or restores us to our original state, and He renews us, completely changing us for the better.  He restores us to being created in the image of God and renews us by completely conforming us into the image of Christ!

All this may seem mysterious and supernatural, and it is, but it’s also noticeable, specific, and measurable.  When the Holy Spirit’s fruitful and dynamic charisma is at work in a person’s life, the Bible teaches His fruit and gifts (charisma) will be evident.  In Galatians 5:22-23, the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit produces 9 fruits in a believer’s life:  they are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.  In 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 12:4, the Bible also teaches that we should not be uninformed of the variety of “charismas” of the Holy Spirit. You can read about these in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:7-11, 27-31 and 14:12, and Ephesians 4:7, 11-14.  Some of the charismas are service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, helps, and administration.

I have begun praying for the working of the everlasting, completely efficient, all powerful Holy Spirit in my life in nine areas…

  1. LOVING SHEPHERD

The Spirit’s fruit of love or agape simply means to prefer what God prefers.  It implies a steadfast goodwill or affection for His creation.

The Spirit’s charisma of shepherd means to care for the total wellbeing of a person or group.

The dynamic, fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s loving shepherd makes us consistently forgiving so we may be like our Good Shepherd, not retaining our anger, but preferring to show steadfast love and goodwill for the whole team (Micah 7:18).

  1. JOYFUL MERCY

The Spirit’s fruit of joy means to be full of gladness, delight, or enthusiasm due to our awareness of God’s grace.  Literally we can sense Him kneeling or leaning toward us to rejoice over us.

The Spirit’s charisma of mercy means to communicate God’s covenant loyalty.

The dynamic, fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s joyful mercy makes us remember that while we were still in sin, God was at work reconciling us to Himself through the death of His Son. So being in Christ, we experience God rejoicing over us with singing, and He makes us enthusiastically share with others the loyal mercies of God!

  1. PEACEFUL WISDOM

The Spirit’s fruit of peace means undisturbed serenity.

The Spirit’s charisma of wisdom literally means sophisticated interaction.

This dynamic, fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s peaceful wisdom makes us pray regularly so we can consistently interact with others with undisturbed sophistication.

  1. PATIENT (Long-suffering) SERVICE

The Spirit’s fruit of patience means we are long-suffering or long-tempered.

The Spirit’s charisma of service means God births in us a persuasion creating a willing

attitude.

The dynamic, fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s patient service makes us appreciate the

opportunities and people around us so we are long-suffering and continue with a willing attitude.

  1. KIND ADMINISTRATION

The Spirit’s fruit of kindness means having the integrity to do something helpful to meet real needs in God’s way in His timing, without harshness.

The Spirit’s charisma of administration means to steer or govern a ship at stormy seas to a safe harbor, bringing order to chaos.

This dynamic, fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s kind administration makes us have the integrity to respond to chaos without harshness and help the team make it to a safe harbor.

  1. GOOD LEADERSHIP

The Spirit’s fruit of goodness means we have a moral excellence that resembles God’s.

The Spirit’s charisma of leadership means a well-established character and respected reputation which provides the needed model to inspire and influence others.

The dynamic, fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s good leadership makes us have the kind of character that can keep us wherever His charisma takes us, so we can inspire and influence others toward Christ-like moral excellence.

  1. FAITHFUL FAITH

The Spirit’s fruit of faithfulness and the Spirit’s charisma of faith means a God-given persuasion or vision of His plan which leads us to confidently trust that He will come through.  The Lord continuously births faith in the yielded believer so they can know what He prefers (1 John 5:4).  In Scripture, faith is God’s warranty, certifying that the revelation He birthed in us will come to pass (His way).

The dynamic, fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s faithful faith makes us confidently hopeful.

  1. GENTLE ENCOURAGEMENT

The Spirit’s fruit of gentleness or meekness means expressing the power of God with

reserve and humility.

The Spirit’s charisma of encouragement means to call close beside to be a legal

advocate.

The fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s gentle encouragement makes us humble and strong

to cheerfully and gently advocate for, and comfort, others.

  1. SELF-CONTROLLED KNOWLEDGE

The Spirit’s fruit of self control or temperance means to have dominion from within for self mastery, creating a balanced or temperate disposition.

The Spirit’s charisma of knowledge means good doctrine, or having a biblical lifestyle gained from personal interaction with Christ and His Word.

The fruitful charisma of the Spirit’s temperate knowledge makes us repentant to change our minds and agree with God’s Word in our thoughts and attitudes, decisions, and actions.

 

A caterpillar needs 10 days inside the chrysalis (pupa) to be transformed into a monarch butterfly.   A 1967 Corvette L88 needed 47 years to be transformed into a $3.5 million collectors’ car.  How long does it take you and me to be transformed into the Spirit’s dynamic and fruitful charisma?  Maybe our transformation is more like trying to figure out how many licks does it takes to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?!!  The Scriptures promises the God of peace Himself will sanctify completely those who trust Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  He’s at work regenerating, renewing, and transforming us, because we have been predestined to be conformed into the image of Christ!  May you and I desire the dynamic, fruitful charisma of the Holy Spirit!

Dynamic, Fruitful Charisma 1, Diesels and Disney

Disney Diesel

In the world of pick-up trucks, the new diesel trucks are changing everything. They are generally considered to be the most fuel efficient, highest powered, longest lasting engines you can buy.   New diesel engines help trucks haul larger loads faster and farther on less fuel.  Having an efficient, high-powered, long lasting engine is a blessing.

The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is an everlasting, completely efficient, all powerful person.  He is everlasting because He is a deposit of the Father into a person’s life who trusts Jesus as their Savior and Lord, sealing them for eternal life in heaven.  To be efficient means to produce results with little or no waste.  The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is efficient, as there is no work of God that is ever wasted (1 Co 15:58, Isaiah 55:1, Jn 6:39, Jn 18:9).  The Holy Spirit is also the representative of God’s great power in a person’s life.  The Bible’s Greek word for power is dunamis or dynomis, and for those car guys out there, the Greek is noticeably close to the words Duramax (diesels) and Dynomax (exhausts). It’s also where the words dynomite and dynamic come from!  The Bible says this dynamic power is the same as the miraculous power exerted in Christ when the Father (Ro 6:4, Ga 1:1), the Son (Jn 2:19, Jn 10:18), and the Holy Spirit (1Pe 3:18, Ro 8:11), raised Him from the dead (Eph 1:19-20).  Romans 8:11 says, “If the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”  Thus the Holy spirit is an everlasting, completely efficient, and all powerful person, who lives inside every believer (Ac 2:42) of Christ.

My girls love to watch the Disney channel.  I think ever since 12-year-old Annette Funicello became a mousketeer in 1955, Disney has had a knack for finding high charisma kids.  Charisma is a compelling talent (or divinely conferred power) that can inspire devotion in others.  In 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 12:4, the Bible says we should not be uninformed of the “charisma” of the Holy Spirit. I regularly ask my kids while watching Disney with them, “Is it possible for someone without the Holy Spirit to have as much charisma as a believer?”  (Insert eye roll) They respond, “No dad!”

The Holy Spirit is our comforter (Jn 15:26), our conviction (Jn 16:8), and our competency or qualification (2 Co 3:6).  He is our sanctifier (Ro 15:16), our sufficiency (2 Co 3:5) and our serenity (Gal 5:22).  He is more dynamic than a Duramax, and has more charisma than Disney.  Next we’ll learn what His dynamic, fruitful charisma produces in a believer’s life.

Smile, You’re The Apple Of His Eye!

apple-of-my-eye1I had traveled alone, and after a 14 hour flight I had arrived in Shanghai.  I had no idea where I was going, so I followed the Americans through the airport trying to navigate strange signs.  I made it through fingerprinting… then immigration… then picked up my bags and passed screening.  Finally I came around the corner into a large group of people waiting, mostly short Asians.  And then I saw him!  My brother stood head and shoulder above the crowd, and he made sure that I knew he was excited to see me!  That was cool.  I’ll never forget the joy of seeing my brother on the other side of the world.

In Luke chapter two, “the angel said to (the shepherds), ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”  They were learning that God loved them so much, He was sending His one and only Son (Jn 3:16) to be their Savior.  And while we celebrate how excited we are that Jesus came to us, we maybe overlook that the Christmas story is about our Heavenly Father working out His plan to reconcile us to Himself, so He can communicate to us how excited He is to see us and to be close to us again!

One of my friends sang his bride a love song at their wedding.  The guys were amazed he pulled it off.  The ladies seemed to think it was so sweet, the kind of thing every girl wishes someone would do for her.  The Bible says in Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”  The Bible is teaching us God sent Jesus at Christmas, to restore our relationship, so He could rejoice over us with gladness, and affirm His love for us by loudly singing us a love song!

When you picture God in your mind how is He looking at you?  Is He distant and unapproachable?  Is He stern and condescending?  Is He scowling and disapproving?  If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, the Bible portrays a very different image of Him.  In Psalm 147:11, He is the Father who delights in those who trust in Him.  He is pleased with, or He takes pleasure in, those who hope in His steadfast love.  The Numbers 6:25 blessing is that the Lord would “smile on you and be gracious to you!”

The Christmas story is good news that creates great joy.  I hope you spend time considering how much your Heavenly Father loves you in Christ Jesus.  And I hope you are satisfied with His steadfast love, so that you can rejoice and be glad all your days (Ps 90:14).  Be encouraged friends, and smile — you are the apple of His eye (Ps 17:8)!

I Know The Plan

321742566-I-know-God-has-bigger-and-better

One of my favorite football coaches was asked a question about his leadership following the game.  He had just been beaten badly by a rival, he was navigating ongoing player discipline issues, and he looked exhausted and discouraged.  A reporter asked him, “Do you think you’ve lost the team?” and he answered, “I don’t know.” Two days later he was fired. I learned a valuable lesson from that coach I respect so much. I learned that one of the most important tools of a leader is confidence in the plan.  

As Christians we have an unfair advantage when it comes to leadership.  We’re trusting the Lord Jesus who always knows the plan (Jer. 29:11) and is faithful to establish us (2 Thes. 3:3),  so we can be confident He will complete the plan in us (Phil. 1:6, He. 12:2). But our feelings will betray us.

Elijah experienced overwhelming discouragement and burnout in 1 Kings 19.  He was being threatened and chased because God had used him mightily. The Bible says that he was so exhausted he lay down and prayed that he might die.  An angel came to encourage him to eat because the journey was too great for him. If we had asked him that day how would overcome Jezebel, I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.”  If we had asked him if he would survive the difficulty, I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.” If we had asked Elijah that day about his leadership ability I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.”   These battles of uncertainty are exhausting and scary, and each of us has been there from time to time. Later in the chapter, Elijah’s confidence in the Lord’s plan is renewed and he goes back to work.

Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me… 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.”  Paul knew how to answer every question and was confident in every overbearing difficulty. He knew we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10).  

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost recently said after starting the season 0 and 5, “it would have been easier to stay where we were comfortable, but there’s not going to be a place where it’s sweeter or more fun for me than here, when we get this right.  Wherever I’m going to coach, we’re going to teach our players to play with a desire to excel with no fear of failure.  ”

Dear Christian leader, the next time you’re in a great difficulty, or you’re exhausted or discouraged, and you’re asked a question about your leadership, be careful not to say “I don’t know.”  Start with what you know. Be confident in who He’s created you to be and what He’s called you to do. Be confident that He will complete it, and your only work is to believe (John 6:29). Remain in fellowship with Christ so that you can be full of courage and not shrink back (1 John 2:28).  Communicate the confidence you have in following Christ, and demonstrate humility by inviting other wise counsel into the discussion. After sharing what you’re confident in, ask other key leaders what wisdom they can share with you, and acknowledge the “I don’t know” when it comes to the details.  And always, when you’re just really not sure, “lay down before you hurt yourself,” and allow the Lord to minister His Bread to you until you can get up in confident humility again.

I Am Free!!

I Am Free Raging Bull Six Flags

I love rollercoasters.  Raging Bull at Six Flags is one of my favorites.  Being 202 feet in the air in a side less train is incredible, and the 20 story drop into the underground tunnel at 73 miles an hour is exhilarating.

When my emotions are on a rollercoaster I don’t find it as fun.  Recently I was flying high with excitement and gratitude for how good life was that day.  And then in less than 5 minutes, after one conversation, I was in an emotional free fall into darkness of fear and insecurity, being tempted with reproach and despair.  How does that happen?  And how should we respond?

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  5We destroy arguments, and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  We need to grow in assessing what thoughts we should allow and what thoughts we need to get a hold of and get out of our minds!  I’m learning anytime I have thoughts of anxiety, insecurity, fear of rejection, or resentment, amongst others, it’s a thought I need to take captive.  It’s a lie.  It’s positioning itself to set up against what God would have for me.  My litmus test is the fruit of the Spirit.  If our minds are not full of the fruit of the Spirit, we should regularly ask ourselves, “What thoughts do I need to take captive?”  Then pray, “Father, I take captive thoughts of insecurity or anxiety, please empower me to be obedient to the mind of Christ for me.”

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  Are you willing to confess “stinkin thinkin” as your own sin?  Or do you prefer to blame someone else for the thoughts in your mind?  We can be enmeshed victims, or we can be differentiated overcomers.  When we are willing to confess our sinful thoughts and attitudes and emotions, we differentiate from people and circumstances and God can heal our emotions so we can be full of the fruit of the Spirit.  What do I need to confess? And then pray, “Father I confess thoughts of insecurity, I know these are not what you have for me.  Or “Father I confess thoughts of anxiety and fear.  Please forgive me, I know you’ll never reject me!”

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  In a military sense, we understand that someone has to stand up for liberty.  But do we understand what it takes to stand up for psychological and emotional freedom?  Ephesians 6:12-13 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”  For many of us, our interpersonal relationships or daily circumstances seem to be at war against our emotions.  However the scriptures teach it’s not our fleshly relationships or our bodily circumstances that we at war with.  We are war with cosmic powers, or demons of darkness.  You are not at war with your spouse, kids, coworkers, finances, or that person at church.  The demonic world is full of rejection, reproach, fear, anxiety, despair, adultery, rebellion, idolatry, pride, etc. The Bible says in James 4:7, “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  What am I standing against?  Then pray, “Father I stand against and resist demons of dark thoughts and dark emotions in the name of Jesus.  Help me stand firm in the freedom you have provided for me.”

Matthew 18:18 says, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.”  What needs to be bound?  Let’s cut to the chase.  The “demons of darkness” from Ephesians 6:12 need to be bound in the name of Jesus from whispering all their depravity into our minds.  Matthew 8:31 says, “And the demons said, if you cast us out, send us away into the pigs…”  You would do those around you a big favor if you didn’t stop at just taking the thoughts captive and binding it up.  If that demon of darkness is whispering to you, you can be pretty sure he and his “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12) are whispering to those around you too.  You’re not alone in temptation.  Where does this need to be cast to?  Why not bind it all up in Jesus name and cast it back to hell where it belongs?!!!  Then pray, “Heavenly Father, I bind demons of insecurity and anxiety in Jesus name and cast them to hell.  They have no place here Lord, may you fill me with your Spirit and may His fruit control my life.”

But be prepared, if you pray these kinds of cleansing prayers, it may get worse before it gets better.  Luke 11:24-26 says, 24“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”  Jokingly, demons must be like cats because they hate the water!! I can remember times of standing against something in prayer for our church, and then having it come back seven times more violent.  But just keep standing.  Plead the blood of Jesus over yourself.  And having done all, stand firm.

If this resonates with you, please spend time in prayer.  Use the song links below and spend time in quietness asking God to help you understand what you need to stand against.  Answer the bold questions above.  And then pray the prayers in italics for yourselves, your loved ones, and your churches!

I’m Free –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CJX4NT6jMw

Child, You’re Forgiven – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI9npdwLATc

So the next time the rollercoaster of your emotions is on a free fall to darkness, please take time to reconsider what you need to stand against.  Pull back from arguing and wrestling with people and circumstances, and stand firm for the spiritual freedom of your mind and heart.  Then you can celebrate, “I AM FREE!”

Redneck Christmas

Redneck Christmas

“Basstrackers, bayliners and a party barge, strung together like a floatin’ trailer park, anchored out and gettin’ loud all summer long. Side by side there’s five houseboat front porches, astroturf, lawn chairs and tiki torches. Regular joes, rockin’ the boat that’s us, the Redneck Yacht Club!” Craig Morgan
When someone uses the term “redneck” they may be referring to the rural blue collar working class, or those who work an hourly, manual labor job. This song represents one of my favorite summer pastimes. While many people like to go to fine resorts on vacation, I prefer solitude on a pontoon boat. While some prefer a crystal clear concrete bottom chlorinated pool, I prefer the natural beauty of the cloudy algae and mucky bottom of Lake Koshkonong. While at the Kosh I often think about the story of Naaman’s healing in 2 Kings 5 when he was angry he couldn’t go wash in the “clean waters” of Abana or Pharpar, but instead had to go wash in the “turbid” (thick with suspended matter) and “discoloured” waters of the Jordan (Ellicott’s Commentary).
And then Jesus comes at Christmas. Wouldn’t you think the Creator (John 1:3,10) would arrive in the finest and most beautiful accommodations the earth could offer? I’m thinking the Omnipresent One should be oceanside! The Prince of Peace is by the palm trees! Or the Messiah’s on the mountain! Yet we read in Luke 2:8-12, “there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’” The manger is a cattle crib, a feeding box, an animal stall. It’s referred to earlier in the Bible as the place the oxen live (Job 39:9, Pr 14:4). And later Jesus refers to the manger as the place your donkey lives (Luke 13:15). Our friends the dairy farmers scrape the manure out of the “manger” three times a day! As Mike Rowe would say, it’s a “dirty job.”
Shepherds were held in low opinion among the people in those days. Commentaries tell us the shepherds were not even allowed in the courts or marketplaces. Commentaries also suggest that the sheep intended for the daily sacrifices in the temple were fed in the Bethlehem pastures. Some commentators suggest the angel came to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks because they cherished the traditions of David’s shepherd life, and were expecting Christ to someday come to Bethlehem. This “exaltation of the humble and meek” reminds me of Samuel coming to David in the field in 1 Samuel 16. God told Samuel regarding David’s brother Eliab, “Do not look at his appearance or on the height of his stature… For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then they send for David, who was “keeping the sheep.” The Bible says he was the youngest, or the least, the weakest, the most insignificant, and the Lord told Samuel to anoint him as king.
Philippians 2 says we should have the same attitude as Jesus, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Hebrews 12:2 says we should watch Jesus, who “endured the cross, despising the shame.” If you’re with me so far… washing in the Jordan might have been disgusting. Being born in a manger could be considered embarrassing. And there’s shame in dying on a cross.
Jesus says in Luke 20:46, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.” So far I’m liking the teachers’ way of life a lot better than Jesus’! The marketplace Jesus refers to is where assemblies are held, the place the shepherds weren’t allowed. Today’s marketplace may be a courtroom, business convention, mall, or church. This past summer a journalist was barred from the Speaker’s lobby outside the House Chamber because of what some said was “selective enforcement of the dress code, which only calls for professional attire” (thehill.com). Americans love to be respected and are quick to point out when we think someone isn’t dressed respectfully for the marketplace!
Christmas Eve services are one of the most highly attended church events of the year. Many get dressed up in their nicest clothes to go to their beautifully decorated concrete sanctuaries to hear a white collar religious leader encourage us not to miss finding Jesus this Christmas.
The Bible askes me tough questions this Christmas. Do I prefer to find Jesus at a clear pool or turbid river? Do I think I’ll find Him at a clean conference room or a smelly barnyard? Do I think I’ll find Him as a white collar religious leader, or a blue collar “redneck” shepherd? I hope everyone participates in corporate worship this Christmas. Honestly, I wonder sometimes if I miss finding Jesus at Christmas Eve services I’m a part of leading?