Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Christmas Story


The Christmas Story we read each year at this time did not happen in just one day. The account recorded in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel took perhaps 3 to 5 years. It is a record of the birth and beginning of the young life of Jesus who was born of a Virgin in the town of Bethlehem and raised in the town of Nazareth in the Galilee.

Everything we know about the childhood of Jesus, between birth and the age of 12, is summed up in only one verse.

Luke 2:40  And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

From this brief glimpse we understand that there is a period in life called childhood when neither God nor man requires true accountability from a child. Rather God has placed children, and even His only begotten Son, under the hand of parents, tutors, and governors until the appointed time.

Galatians 4:2  But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

All of the learned studies I have made throughout the years have pointed me to the reality that God intends parents and/or guardians to be the responsible parties in a child’s life until the age of accountability which may not be defined by the number of years but is rather a pivotal moment in each child’s life when they are confronted by the Holy Spirit and they begin to be held accountable for their own decisions. This pivotal time in life seems to be generally recognized at about the age of 12 or 13 years.

I know it happened in my life in the summer of 1967. I was 12 and a half. I can tell you the day, where I was and what I was doing when I was confronted with the reality that God had given me a choice as to how I would live my life. That summer I became responsible to God for my decisions. I was a child – it seems overnight I became a boy. (vs. 40&43)

The next verse in Luke shines a light on this pivotal moment in the life of Jesus. Jesus was confronted with His responsibility towards God and how it meshed with His responsibilities towards His mother and step-father.

Luke 2
41  His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
42  And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.
43  When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it;

51  Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.
52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

(Luke 2:40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.) Grace then Favor … As a young child Jesus grew in size and wisdom and was given grace. At about the age of 12 and a half, Jesus still had some growing to do in size and in wisdom but now He needed favor, not only the favor of God but also with man. Favor is most often gained because of how we present ourselves, our decisions and because people know they can depend on us.

The story of Luke continues with Jesus fully grown at about 30 years of age. In less than 3 chapters Jesus is a baby, a child, a boy and now a man.

Luke 3
21  When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.
22  And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
23  Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli,

A Son in whom God was well pleased … He had grown up to please His heavenly Father. Mary and Joseph must have done a pretty good job!

The Christmas story from the Book of Luke holds such revelation and comfort for parents who hope and pray and struggle through the child raising seasons of life. These early years are potentially the most difficult and yet the most eternally rewarding challenges any one of us will ever face in life. Parents are challenged to be like God in the eyes of a child.

Of course we must teach them the difference between us and God while at the same time embracing the similarities and depending on the guidance. Parents are chosen and given place to be a guiding light for our children.

Children are designed by our Creator to be impressionable. They are born with a mold-ability and it is very hard for any child to end up being much different than their parents. In order to break the mold a child has to struggle through life with conflict – what I see and know versus what I should be and show.

It seems an unfair burden is placed on children when they are born into a situation where they are not loved, guided, supported, trusted, taught, cared for and encouraged to be happy, contented, successful, productive, kind and giving citizens as they grow up. It’s hard for a young child to discount the model and break the mold and strike out on a new way they have not known or been shown. It’s best when a parent, guardian, or mentor takes a child under wing and teaches them the right way by modeling it themselves.

Notice that the scriptures really tell us more about Mary and Joseph during those early years than about Jesus. Once we know about Mary and Joseph, we can fairly well predict what the course of the life of Jesus will be.

The Christmas story is about the Christ Child, the only begotten Son of God, being born in the town of Bethlehem who grew to become the Savior of the World. But it is also about His parents, their lives, their decisions and their home. Let’s take a closer look at the kind of people God chose and gave to Jesus as parents to be responsible for His upbringing.

·        Was an honorable man who followed the traditional guidelines of a committed and godly engagement before marriage.
·        He was a man of deep moral conviction and demonstrated character.
·        He was a spiritual man who believed in God-given dreams.
·        He was a man who was not afraid of public opinion but stood by what He believed was right.
·        He was committed to his spiritual convictions possessing and exercising tremendous self-control.
·        He was a man who trusted his wife and allowed her to speak out and supported her decisions as though they were his own.
·        He was a religious man who guided his family in the ways of God and attended the Feasts of Passover at great personal expense each year.
·        He was a man who trusted his children as they grew but kept a watchful eye and did whatever it took to protect and guide them back on track.
·        He was the spiritual leader of his home and his family followed him whether to Bethlehem, or to Egypt, Nazareth, or to Jerusalem.
·        He made his decisions based upon what was best for his family in the eyes of God.
·        He was willing to raise a child that was not his child as though He was. Many supposed and believed Jesus was Joseph’s son …
·        Joseph was evidently a good man … I have never read nor heard one negative word about him.

·        A chaste young woman with values and virtues above reproach.
·        She was willing to endure hardship for the will and plan of God.
·        She believed the Word of God.
·        She was not a lazy person.
·        She endured hardship and even rejoiced in unknown days to come.
·        She was not a fearful woman.
·        She was tough … she had her baby in a stable.
·        She was not quick to judge, condemn, disagree, or speak … she pondered things in her heart.
·        She saw value in the traditions of her religion …
·        She dedicated herself and her child to God.
·        She trusted, followed, supported, and obeyed her husband.
·        She wasn’t afraid to speak up.
·        She disciplined her children with love and directness
·        She was committed for life to her family and her God.

Jesus was raised in a traditional, moral, religious, loving, and kind home with good honest, caring, disciplined parents who loved and worshipped God and expected Him to be an obedient child who did whatever He could to help others. This was the mold Jesus was poured in to and these were the impressions God wanted to make on the young impressionable life of His only begotten Son while He was growing up to become the Savior of the World. These were the family values that helped shape His young life.

We don’t see Mary and Joseph arguing or divided on how to raise their children but rather we see both parents participating in everything from worship to family trips. Mary and Joseph are seen in scriptures as one. Through all the complexities of their individual situations and the social problems it caused as well as the physical, mental, and spiritual demands placed on their lives, we never see any evidence of them disagreeing or doubting or blaming. I’m certain life was hard … Joseph held down a construction job and was well known as a carpenter in his hometown. Mary was evidently a bit more social and seemed to be in some considerate charge for the wedding in Cana with a concern for both the host and for the guests at that wedding.

Mary knew her son and knew His capabilities and she was not shy about demanding He help. And then she commanded the servants at the wedding to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Jesus complied although not keen to do so on His own … He knew from experience that He had better obey His mother. As well, those other servants at the wedding also obeyed Mary.

It would be great if we all had parents like Mary and Joseph. But, even if we didn’t or don’t now … nonetheless the Christmas Story can be a reminder as to the type of mom, dad, husband, wife, worker, friend, and servant of the Lord we need to be so that our children, our grandchildren, our spiritual children, and the community we serve might see our lives as a role model to follow. Who are you helping to be more like Christ?

Thank God for the Christmas Story, thank God for Jesus, thank God for Mary and Joseph, and thank God for you!

You are chosen to be someone’s gift from God. Now … Go be the blessing you were meant to be for ones who need you!

Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Mary’s Salvation


Last Sunday we learned three principles of life from Mary as we reviewed the beginning of the Christmas story from Luke 1:26-38 …
1.   Purity of spirit, soul and body is critical to achieving God’s best for our lives.
2.   One moment of favor is worth a thousand days of labor.
3.   If we will give God’s Word a chance it will change our lives.

Luke 1:39-56 Mary’s account continues with her traveling to visit Elizabeth. Mary’s conclusion is: “God has filled the hungry with good things and those who imagine they are self-sufficient go away empty handed” (Luke 1:53)

The heart of our message today is found in Luke 1:45-47. (The setting …)

Luke 1 NKJV
45  “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
46  And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

·        Lord in verse 45 = Greek: “Kurios” which means owner; master; the one to whom I belong and who has power over me; my sovereign.
·        My soul in verse 46 = Greek: “Psuche” – the mind, will and emotions of an individual mortal man; that part of man that must be born again or if not, then we live with the consequences and within the confines of eternal damnation and death.
·        Magnifies in verse 46 = Greek: “Megaluno” – comes from the root word “Megas” and means to make great; esteem highly; praise, celebrate and make known.
·        “My soul magnifies the Lord” – Greek – “Mou psuche megaluno Kurios”
·        My spirit in verse 47 = “Pneuma” which means the spark of life within me that gives me breath and governs my soul.
·        Rejoiced in the Greek denotes the expression of one who has been made joyfully happy and exceedingly glad.
·        God in verse 47 = Greek “Theos” – herein referring to the one true living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … Jehovah the Creator of all things.
·        My Savior = Greek “Soter” – the one who rescues, delivers, saves, sets free and keeps me safe from all harm.

 Luke 1 NKJV
45  “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
46  And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Have you ever considered who Mary represents in the Christmas Story? God pays attention to detail in His all-encompassing plan to save rebellious mankind. Adam and Eve did not just get lost and separated from God. They sinned … willful and intentionally … Adam and Eve rebelled against God when they disobeyed Him and His Word. Every descendant of Adam was born into sin because of the rebellious nature of man.

God sent Jesus to put down the rebellion, (1 John 3:8b), by defeating sin, forgiving sinners, delivering lives and saving the souls of those who believe on His name. Jesus purchased our souls and offered us forgiveness. He paid for the rebellion in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:8) He loved us first … when we were rebellious …

God leaves nothing to chance but divinely orchestrates every detail even sending His Son to be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem. The virgin’s name is Mary.
·        Mary = Greek – “Maria” or “Mariam” --- In Hebrew – “Miryam” ~ Both have the same meaning … Rebellion”

God sent the Savior to a world and a people who were lost and hurting because of their rebellion. Mankind refused to trust, serve and worship Jehovah Almighty. Instead of destroying mankind, God offered the rebellious a chance to see His goodness, trust His Word, turn to Him and be Born Again. God’s plan for His children is “out of this world!”

Mary teaches again this week that:
1.   Blessed is the one who believes … they shall see the promise of God.
2.   We should see God bigger than our thoughts, our wants, and our feelings. “Mou psuche megaluno Kurios”

3.   Theos mou Soter! (God is my Savior … my only hope in all things.) Rejoice and be glad … every day is Christmas for the Believer!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Born on Purpose


Judges 13 NKJV
1 ¶  Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
·        Can you imagine, some people and families in Israel at that time had never known freedom from oppression and the heavy hand of their enemies. Many were born, lived and died in these trying times.
·        The sins of a nation can throw a whole generation into bondage.
·        Achan, the Bible says, did not perish alone in his iniquity … it costs his whole nation. (Joshua 22:20; Jeremiah 2:25)
2  Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children.
3  And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.
·        This was no ordinary man or angel … this was the Angel of the Covenant, Jesus, the Son and the Word of Almighty Jehovah God.
·        Don’t be quick to decide that times of preparation or a season of waiting on the Lord’s plan is a waste of time or a signal that you aren’t important or won’t be used. Keep your heart right with the Lord and continue doing those things necessary to life and service.
·        God has a plan and He makes all things beautiful in its time. (E 3:11)
4  “Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean.
·        This admonition should be heard and embraced by all parents and leaders … please be careful to not do anything you don’t want your children or followers to do. Be the example first and they will follow.
5  “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
·        The womb and cradle should be the safest place on earth. It protects and gives a child the best start in life, so they can begin their destiny.
6  So the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A Man of God came to me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome; but I did not ask Him where He was from, and He did not tell me His name.
7  “And He said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ ”
8 ¶  Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.”
·        1250 years later the Angel Gabriel visited a priest named Zachariah in the Temple in Jerusalem. Gabriel told Zachariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, who had been barren, would have a son. Zachariah questioned Gabriel’s word and the plan of God from a heart of unbelief with reservations. Gabriel struck Zachariah dumb for this unbelief so that he could not speak his doubt and unbelief again until the birth of his son, John the Baptist. (Luke 1)
·        Manoah shows the right way to receive a message or a messenger of the Lord. Manoah spoke with reverence and respect and with a humble heart to know what to do. Even when we do not understand the what or how of God’s Word, it is important that we humbly petition God to send someone to teach us what we should do.
·        God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
9  And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband was not with her.
10  Then the woman ran in haste and told her husband, and said to him, “Look, the Man who came to me the other day has just now appeared to me!”
11  So Manoah arose and followed his wife. When he came to the Man, he said to Him, “Are You the Man who spoke to this woman?” And He said, “I am.”
12  Manoah said, “Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?”
·        This sounds familiar? Mary said almost the same thing when she was informed by Gabriel that she would have the Son of God. (Lk 1:38)
·        As well, Jesus repeated, “Not My will but Thine be done.” (Lk 22:42)
13  So the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful.
14  “She may not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor may she drink wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean. All that I commanded her let her observe.”
15 ¶  Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You.”
16  And the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know He was the Angel of the LORD.)
·        All offerings, without respect as to whom they may be given, should be offered to God who receives them in heaven. (Hebrews 7:8)
·        You never know who you may be talking to. Be kind, respectful and a good listener. Sometimes we entertain angels unaware! (Heb 13:2)
17  Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, “What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?”
18  And the Angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”
·        No mere created angel or any person sent from God ever imagined they were too awesome to be named or understood. Only One ever made this claim … Jesus! (Rev 19:12; Exo 3:14; Rev 1:18; 22:13)
·        Isaiah 9:6  For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
·        It’s so beyond mortal man’s ability to comprehend or understand … it’s like a secret too wonderful to be uttered. (Revelation 2:7; 19:12)
19  So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on — 
·        The same Hebrew word is used as the root for both “Wonderful” in the previous verse and the doing of a “wondrous” thing here.
·        God does God things … Wonders are done by the Wonderful while others watch. All eyes shall see and behold Him who is Wonderful! (Acts 3:16; Exodus 19:11; Joshua 24:17; Revelation 1:7)
20  it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar — the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.
·        Moses saw this same Angel of the Lord in a flame in a bush that was not consumed. It moved Moses to a posture of worship …
·        The proper posture is one of respect when a Holy God chooses to commune with a mere mortal. They bowed down to the ground.
·        Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, I chose you!” (John 15:16)
21  When the Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the LORD.
22  And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!”
·        It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God. (Heb 10:31)
·        Often, after the moment, we catch a glimpse of how awesome God is and we see ourselves in light of His majesty. It is sobering …
23  But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have told us such things as these at this time.”
·        Herein is the Gospel and the plan of God … (Hebrews 1:1-2)
·        If God had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted the sacrifice of His Son, nor would He have told us such wonderful things as those contained in His Word, the Holy Bible. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
24 ¶  So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.
25  And the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

My birthday was 5 days ago. That day when I was thanking God for my parents I mentioned to the Lord that I knew my parents did not plan my birth. I believe I heard this word from God: “You were not a part of their plan, you were a part of mine. Your birth was not planned by your parents … you were a gift to them from Me.” There are at least 4 stages of a person’s life if they are born on purpose … and we all fit into that category!
·        Birth         
o   The woman birthed him …
·        Growth     
o   He grew in the right way doing the right things …
·        Blessing    
o   Jehovah blessed his life …
·        Service     
o   In time, the “Ruwach of Jehovah began to move in, on            and through him.

You were born on purpose … You are a gift from God ... Grow and serve!

Saturday, December 9, 2017



This morning we are going to continue our Christmas series. After reviewing some history to help set the stage we will begin by reading from the Word of God in Luke, chapter 1. Then we’ll conclude with principles that will offer us an opportunity to apply God’s Word to our lives today.

Keep in mind that he Bible does not intend to tell us everything that happened during the time of the patriarchs or in the life of Jesus for that matter. There are intentional gaps in the time line for which history provides added perspective. The most noted gaps are the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments and all that has happened since the close of the Apostolic age and the first-generation Church. As well,  

John 21:25  And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

·        There are 12 judges listed in the Old Testament book of Judges.
·        However, throughout the Bible and since its canonization, there are many more men and women who were destined, prepared and used by God to deliver His children from persecution through miraculous means and by God’s divine intervention at their hands.
·        God is a God of miracles.
·        Last week we learned:
o   God can do anything – miracles included …
o   God works through people …
o   God’s people can do anything with His help.
·        There are modern day men and women called and destined to be used by God to deliver His message and lead His Children.

Now for a little historical perspective:

In brief and general terms, around 160 years before Christ was born the Jewish nation was under the rule of the Syrian-Greek Seleucid Empire. The Jews were divided between into two main groups. Those living in Jerusalem who had been “Hellenized” and greatly influenced by the Greeks and their watered-down way of life and worship, and those living in the country who followed a more traditional holy way of life and who worshipped according to the Law. The Greek King Antiochus IV hoping to increase revenues, sided with those in Jerusalem and even went a big step further. Antiochus, a mad man, attempted to abolish Judaism by outlawing worship of any god except the Greek gods. He erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple Ezra had built to Jehovah and installed his own high priest.

Jews rebelled and in the end five brothers lead the Maccabean revolt and won a great victory, recapturing the temple mount and taking back control of Jerusalem through their innovative guerrilla warfare tactics. They then performed a ritualistic cleansing of the Temple in efforts to restore true worship to Jehovah. One big problem was discovered however … there was only enough holy consecrated oil found to light the lamp in the Temple for one day … that was just not enough time to resupply this special oil.

They decided to depend on the Lord and go ahead and light the lamp and, miraculously the flame continued to burn for 8 days … enough time for them to resupply the oil. This was a noted miracle among the people.

Everyone in Jerusalem witnessed this miracle and it was vowed that this miracle would be remembered, and a festival would be held each year to commemorate the deliverance of the Children of God from the hand of their oppressors. God had brought salvation and so they named this 8-day festival The Festival of Lights. It has been celebrated each year beginning on the 25th of Kislev and lasting 8 days. It is a time of celebration and food and games and remembrance of the salvation God brought His children and the rededication of His Temple. Jesus would have celebrated this festival growing up in Nazareth with His family.

The Festival of Lights for this year begins on December 12th and ends 8 days later on the 20th. You may also know this festival by its Hebrew name, חנוכה, pronounced Hanukkah. It was most likely during the celebration of this Festival of Lights, around the year 4 to 6BC, that God sent an angel to visit a young girl in the town of Nazareth. Let’s read:

Luke 1 NKJV
26  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28  And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
30  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31  “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.
32  “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
33  “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
36  “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.
37  “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38  Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.


1.   Purity of spirit, soul and body is critical to achieving God’s best for our lives.
2.   One moment of favor is worth a thousand days of labor.

3.   Give God’s Word a chance and it will change your life.