Christ The Savior Is Born

The Word became flesh…

As we close-in on Christmas, we come to the most important event in human history, the birth of Jesus, because without His birth, there would have been no crucifixion, and thus no redemption. The birth of Jesus Christ was the hinge-pin of redemption-history, tying the Old Testament to the New Testament and the promises to their fulfillment.

Mary’s visitation…
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 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 bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; 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 His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary’s reaction to this announcement isn’t surprising, considering that she was young, perhaps 12 to 14 years-old, and she still wasn’t married yet. Yes, she was engaged, but she was still living with her parents, as was the custom. This was Gabriel’s second earthly-visit in the last few months. He had visited Zachariah just six months earlier, and now Elizabeth, who had been unable to have a child, was in her sixth month of pregnancy. God had done the impossible for Zachariah and Elizabeth, and He was going to do the same for Mary. Once Mary was assured that this was of God, she responded with faith and trust.

The song of Mary…
And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

When Mary visited Elizabeth, she was with her own eyes that God had enabled Elizabeth to get pregnant. In response to God’s goodness, she praised God in this very beautiful song. God, in His covenant-love for His people, was providing a Redeemer and fulfilling His promises given long ago.

Joseph’s visitation…
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Betrothal was much more binding than mere engagement. The only way a betrothal could be annulled was by divorce. Mary was pregnant, but they weren’t married yet. If he divorced her, she could be charged with adultery and potentially be stoned, because that was the penalty for adultery. The baby wasn’t his, as a check of her virginity would verify. Of course a check of her virginity would also show that she was pregnant even though she was still a virgin. God didn’t have to break her hymen to make her pregnant.

Joseph was in a sticky-situation. Would anyone actually believe Mary’s story of being visited by an angel? Did he actually believe it? All he knew was that his decision would be life-changing. Did he already have hopes and dreams for their future together? We are told that Joseph was a “righteous man“, so he didn’t want to make a rash decision. He had probably had several nearly-sleepless nights before finally falling falling asleep in exhaustion. It was then that God visited him through an angel.

The angel reminded Joseph of the long-awaited prophesy that Immanuel, God with us, would be born, and he was going to be the “father” of the Messiah. Whatever doubts Joseph had were quickly put to rest, and he responded in faith and took Mary home to be his wife.

How hard was it for Joseph to not have sex with Mary, his right, for the next nine or so months, particularly since a marriage wasn’t “official” until it was consummated? Even though Mary would still be a “virgin” after the baby was born, Joseph would not have the honor of “deflowering” her. We are simply told that Joseph kept her a virgin until after Jesus was born.

The birth of Jesus
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Mary and Joseph had a “divine-appointment” in Bethlehem and the Romans unknowingly arranged it. That must have been an arduous journey for them because Mary was “due” any day. Even though this was Mary’s first baby, she was still a “little girl” by modern-day standards, barely old enough to get pregnant, let alone have a baby. Bethlehem was packed with travelers, so it was no wonder that the local Inn was full. All that was left for shelter was a stable, maybe the innkeeper’s stable.

We can’t imaging a more humble “delivery-room“, but the coming King wouldn’t ever live in a palace. There had been no “baby-shower“, so all Mary had to wrap her baby in was strips of cloth. She may have brought them along just for that purpose. There were no doctors or nurses, and probably not even a mid-wife. Joseph, who had never helped deliver a baby, had to help her with the delivery. Maybe he had swept some of the manure out of the stable and put some fresh hay in the manger, but there was nothing “sanitary” about this delivery. They may have not even had a “clean” knife to cut the cord with. The baby’s first bed was a manger, a feed-trough for animals, but it was better than if Mary had delivered her baby on the road.

Immanuel, God with us, was born that night. The Word, who had taken on human-flesh entered into our world, and the world would never be the same.

Celebration!
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Even though Jesus was born into humble-circumstances, God orchestrated a celebration of His birth. Angels serenaded a bewildered group of shepherds who were camped nearby for the night. I wonder if anyone else saw the heavenly-show? The shepherds didn’t waste any time checking out the marvelous news, and with the shepherds, we should glorify and praise our wonderful God.

Glory to God in the highest! Thank you for your indescribable gift!!!

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas and a healthy and productive New Year!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Steve

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Born Of A Virgin

And the Word became flesh…

Born of a virgin…
Jesus, while fully-divine, was also fully-human, which required a human biological-parent, a mother, and not just any mother, a virgin. Had His mother not been a virgin, there would have been the possibility of Him having a human-father also. That His mother would be a virgin was prophesied long before His birth.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

It is NATURALLY impossible for a virgin to conceive, let alone know the gender of the baby before it is even conceived, and yet, that was the promise of Isaiah 7:14. In defiance of all the odds, a virgin will conceive and bear a son, but not just any “ordinary” son, he will be Immanuel, which means “God with us“. Not only will this child be “special“, He will be God in human-flesh.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

A young man would naturally be skeptical of his fiance’s fidelity if she turned-up pregnant, particularly if they hadn’t even slept together, let alone had sex. What was going on here? Had she been unfaithful? If so, who was the father? Would her parents attest to her virginity? Would she allow him to see for himself? These are the kind of questions that may have been going through Joseph’s mind when he got the news.

What should he do? Divorce was an option, but was it a good option? He loved her, so he certainly didn’t want to see her get stoned, the penalty for infidelity. What should he do?

Either way, either she would be a social-outcast, or they would be social-outcasts. Could he handle raising a son who wasn’t his own? Could he handle the stigma of raising an “illegitimate” child? He wanted to do the “right-thing“, but what WAS the “right-thing” to do? What would YOU do?

Then, a dream…

We may never face a monumental and life-altering decision such as Joseph was faced with, but if we are, how will we respond? Will we respond in faith, leaving the consequences up to God? Or, will we “chickenout“?

About ten years ago, I was faced with the decision of whether I should marry the lady I was dating. I wasn’t quite-sure, until I had a “mysterious-visitation“, at work. The “presence” was nothing-short of “eerie“, “hair-raising“, but the message was clear, “She was the one God had for me“. Was that “visitation” “angelic“(divine), or was it something “else“? There was nobody else with me in the room.

Do not be afraid” is a command that permeates the Bible, because God is in control. Joseph was to step-out in faith and take Mary as his wife, because, regardless of what happened, God would “have his back“. Do WE trust God that much?

For unto us…
6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

This prophesy from Isaiah 9 is one of the most well-known of the Messianic prophesies, and it reveals to us WHO that Baby in the manger really is. Grandeur and glory on a bed of hay. Each of these titles reveals a facet of Jesus’ ministry, and He could have chosen any one of them to call Himself, and yet His favorite title was “Son of Man“.

John the Baptist highlighted His sacrificial-role in our redemption by calling Him “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”(John 1:29)

Jacob’s Last Words to His Sons
49 And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:
2 “Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob,
And listen to Israel your father. (Genesis 49:1-2)

From the Tribe of Judah…
8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He couches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 “He ties his foal to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine;
He washes his garments in wine,
And his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 “His eyes are dull from wine,
And his teeth white from milk. (Genesis 49:8-12)

It was customary for the patriarch of the family to gather his sons together at the end of his life to give them their individual-blessing. As Jacob was speaking to Judah, he used many powerful symbols: Judah will be a “conqueror“, praise, submission, homage (v.8), a “lion“, symbolizing strength (v.9), a “ruler“, symbolized by the scepter and staff (v.10), “humble“, symbolized by the donkey, “prosperous“, symbolized by the wine and milk (v.11, 12).

Verse 10 also predicts a “universal” and “eternal” kingdom, which will only be finally-realized when Christ returns in glory at the Second Coming, when He breaks the power of sin and death.

The Son of David…
When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’” 17 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. (2 Samuel 7:12-17)

The theological and historical significance of God’s promise to David, recorded in these verses, can hardly be overestimated. Indeed, the promise of an enduring Davidic kingdom has been called the summit of the entire Old Testament. Looking back, it takes up the promises made to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 17:16) and brings them to rest on David (vv. 9, 10, 12). Looking forward, it prepares for the Messianic hope that maintains Israel’s faith and hope, even while in exile. The hope for a Messiah culminates in the coming of Jesus Christ.

Remembering the Covenant with David
3 “I have made a covenant with My chosen,
I have sworn to My servant David:
4 Your seed will I establish forever,
And build up your throne to all generations.”
29 His seed also I will make to endure forever,
and his throne as the days of heaven. (Psalm 89:3-4, 29)

This portion of Psalm 89 celebrates God’s faithfulness to keep His promises. The dynasty of David, as an earthly political enterprise, was long-lived, but not eternal. It was to be superseded by the eternal kingdom of David’s “greater-son“, Jesus Christ.

The reign of Jesse’s offspring
1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

All that was left of the Davidic dynasty was a stump. The privileged sons of David, no less than the Assyrians, were like trees that have been chopped down, felled because of their own evil actions. Out of that stump will spring another shoot, a righteous shoot, who will finally bring truth, righteousness and justice to the earth. He will be a King like no other, because these cherished-qualities will be innate in His character, a part of His “DNA“.

‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a Righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’ 17 For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; (Jeremiah 33:14-17)

This promise is not finally to restore the monarchy, which had died-out because of corruption, but to inaugurate the Messianic kingdom, the “Righteous Branch of David“. God would be faithful to keep His promises, but not yet…

To be born in Bethlehem…
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
3 Therefore He will give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has borne a child.
Then the remainder of His brethren
Will return to the sons of Israel.
4 And He will arise and shepherd His flock
In the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God.
And they will remain,
Because at that time He will be great
To the ends of the earth.
5 This One will be our peace. (Micah 5:2-5)

These prophesies formed the Jews’ collective “vision” of what and who the Messiah would be. Israel, as a nation, had all but ceased to exist after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., and was without a Davidic King from then until the Advent of the Messiah (who they didn’t recognize). Thus, they were looking for a “temporal” “Messiah” who would liberate Israel from bondage, re-establish the Davidic kingdom, and make Israel great again. They couldn’t reconcile these prophesies with the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53, because they didn’t understand that their Messiah’s conquest and triumph wasn’t going to be over their temporal enemies, but over their eternal enemies, sin and death, on a cross. Is it any wonder they crucified Jesus?

His lineage was foretold, His birthplace was foretold, and that His mother would be a virgin was foretold, but these are just the tip of the Old Testament promises “iceberg“. The first promise of a Savior was given by God to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), and we will delve into the subsequent chain of promises in “Promises” and “Promises II“.

In Christ,
Steve

The Incarnation – Jesus is Born

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…

As we gather here on Christmas, we have come to the most important event in human history, the birth of Jesus, because without His birth, there would have been no crucifixion or resurrection, thus no redemption. The birth of Jesus Christ was the hinge-pin of redemption-history, tying the Old Testament to the New Testament and the Promises to their fulfillment.

Mary’s visitation…
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 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 bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; 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 His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary’s reaction to this announcement isn’t surprising, considering that she was young, perhaps 12 to 14 years-old, and she still wasn’t married yet. Yes, she was engaged, but she was still living with her parents, as was the custom. This was Gabriel’s second earthly-visit in the last few months. He had visited Zacharias just six months earlier, and now Elizabeth, who had been unable to have a child, was in her sixth month of pregnancy. God had done the impossible for Zacharias and Elizabeth, and He was going to do the same for Mary. Once Mary was assured that this was of God, she responded with faith and trust.

Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45)

When Mary visited Elizabeth, she saw with her own eyes that God had enabled Elizabeth to get pregnant. In response to God’s goodness, she praised God in this very beautiful song. God, in His covenant-love for His people, was providing a Redeemer and fulfilling His promises given long ago.

The song of Mary…
And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

Joseph’s visitation…
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Betrothal was much more binding than mere engagement. The only way a betrothal could be annulled was by divorce. Mary was pregnant, but they weren’t married yet. If he divorced her, she could be charged with adultery and potentially be stoned because that was the penalty for adultery. The baby wasn’t his, as a check of her virginity would verify. Of course a check of her virginity would also show that she was pregnant even though she was still a virgin. God didn’t have to break her hymen to make her pregnant.

Joseph was in a sticky-situation. Would anyone actually believe Mary’s story of being visited by an angel? Did he actually believe it? All he knew was that his decision would be life-changing. Did he already have hopes and dreams for their future together? We are told that Joseph was a “righteous man“, so he didn’t want to make a rash decision. He had probably had several nearly-sleepless nights before finally falling asleep in exhaustion. It was then that God visited him through an angel.

The angel reminded Joseph of the long-awaited prophesy that Emmanuel, God with us, would be born, and he was going to be the “father” of the Messiah. Whatever doubts Joseph had were quickly put to rest, and he responded in faith and took Mary home to be his wife.
How hard was it for Joseph to not have sex with Mary, his right, for the next nine or so months, particularly since a marriage wasn’t “official” until it was consummated? Even though Mary would still be a “virgin” after the baby was born, Joseph would not have the honor of “deflowering” her. We are simply told that Joseph kept her a virgin until after Jesus was born.

The birth of Jesus
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Mary and Joseph had a “divine-appointment” in Bethlehem and the Romans unknowingly arranged it. That must have been an arduous journey for them because Mary was “due” any day. Even though this was Mary’s first baby, she was still a “little girl” by modern-day standards, barely old enough to get pregnant, let alone have a baby. Bethlehem was packed with travelers, so it was no wonder that the local Inn was full. All that was left for shelter was a stable, maybe the innkeeper’s stable.

We can’t imagine a more humble “delivery-room“, but the coming King wouldn’t ever live in a palace. There had been no “baby-shower“, so all Mary had to wrap her baby in was strips of cloth. She may have brought them along just for that purpose. There were no doctors or nurses, and probably not even a mid-wife. Joseph, who had never helped deliver a baby, had to help her with the delivery. Maybe he had swept some of the manure out of the stable and put some fresh hay in the manger, but there was nothing “sanitary” about this delivery. They may have not even had a “clean” knife to cut the cord with. The baby’s first bed was a manger, a feed-trough for animals, but it was better than if Mary had delivered her baby on the road.

Emmanuel, God with us, was born that night. The Word, who had taken on human-flesh, entered into our world, and the world would never be the same.

Celebration!
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back; glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Even though Jesus was born into humble-circumstances, God orchestrated a celebration of His birth. Angels serenaded a bewildered group of shepherds who were camped nearby for the night. I wonder if anyone else saw the heavenly-show. The shepherds didn’t waste any time checking out the marvelous news, and with the shepherds, we should glorify and praise our wonderful God.

Glory to God in the highest! Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!!!

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas and a healthy and productive New Year!

Sola Deo Gloria!

Bible Study – You Must Be Born Again

Not all Pharisees rejected Jesus, as we see in this week’s passage. Nicodemus was a Jewish religious-leader who didn’t quite know what to make of Jesus, so he came to Him to have a wee chat. He was not just any “rank-and-file” Pharisee, rather he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the most-powerful religious-body of the day. He recognized that God was with Jesus because of the signs and miracle which He had performed. While other religious leaders were demanding more signs, Nicodemus wanted to know more about the Man behind the signs.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:1-21)

Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night? Was he afraid of being discovered and losing-face with his fellow religious-leaders? Did he come to Jesus at night because He was too busy during the day? Was he walking in spiritual-darkness, as symbolized by his night-visit to Jesus, hoping to get some spiritual-illumination? Was Nicodemus trying to flatter Jesus with his opening-statement? We may never know, but Jesus changed the subject immediately.

Nicodemus didn’t understand that Jesus wasn’t there just to teach and perform miracles, even though He did both. He was there to seek and save the lost, people who were spiritually-dead even though they were “religious“, like Nicodemus. Jesus also knew that His ultimate mission was to die on the cross and rise again on the third day. That salvation was what Jesus called being “born-again“. Nicodemus may have been looking for the kind of Messiah who would establish an earthly-kingdom, and not understanding that His kingdom was NOT of this world. Jesus quickly popped that bubble by saying “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus couldn’t relate to being “born-again” because he KNEW that a person couldn’t re-enter the womb and be physically re-born. Even though he was highly-educated in the Old Testament, and a teacher, he didn’t understand that the whole Old Testament pointed forward to Christ. All the rituals, all the sacrifices, while they had meaning, couldn’t cleanse a person from or atone for their sin. Animal-sacrifices covered-over sin, but they didn’t atone for it. To atone for sin required a more-perfect sacrifice, a human-sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God. Only a human-sacrifice could atone for human’s sin.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

This answer reflects and emphasizes the fact that salvation, seeing the kingdom of God, is completely and solely the work of God. As we can’t be “reborn” physically, we also can’t become “born-again” by our own efforts. Nicodemus was a “good” man, a law-abiding Pharisee, but his own “goodness” could never gain him entrance into God’s kingdom. Only God, through Jesus Christ, was able to do that miraculous work.

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Jesus, and His mission, were badly-misunderstood by even the most highly-educated Jews, because they disregarded the “suffering-servant” prophesies in favor of the “victorious-Lord” prophesies, not realizing that the “victorious-Lord” prophesies were for the far-distant future. They imagined the Messiah coming on a mighty-steed, leading a conquering-army, rather than on a lowly donkey.

Jesus then turns Nicodemus’s attention to an event during the Jews wilderness-wanderings. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;

4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

The Bronze Serpent
6 The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)

The Jews had grumbled against God – again, so God sent judgement in the form of poisonous-snakes. Once they repented, God ordered Moses to make a bronze-likeness of the snake and raise it up for all to see. Anyone who had been bitten could look at the snake and live. Jesus said that this event was a foreshadowing of His crucifixion.

What symbol do medical-people use today? The Caduceus, which features two entwined snakes around a pole, topped with wings, has been adopted by many in the medical community. Do they see themselves as “saviors“?

This brings us to the best-known and most-loved verse in the Bible, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” If we have any doubt about how much God loves mankind and His creation, this should put any of those doubts to rest. We know, from reading “the rest of the story“, that God will, in due-time, renew and restore ALL of His creation, including us.

17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:17-21)

Jesus came to save, not judge, but as we see here, those who fail to believe in Jesus have been judged already because they have rejected their only hope of salvation. I am sure that we all know people who range from simple-unbelief to outright-antagonism towards the Gospel. I have friends who are Pagans, Atheists, and even Luciferians, and the only way I can show the Gospel to them is by living it and loving them. The are proud of their ungodly-ways. Any attempts to evangelize them would be rebuffed, but they don’t reject love. We live in the light because Jesdus has set us free from the darkess of our sin. They live in the darkness, hoping that God, if there is a God, isn’t watching their evil-deeds.

In Christ,
Steve

Seasons

When we think of seasons, we usually think of the seasons of the year, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, but our lives also go through seasons. It would be quite easy to equate the seasons of our lives with the seasons fo the year, and sometimes a season in our life appears where it really doesn’t belong. I wrote about misplaced winters in “The “Winters” of Life“. I want to delve into the seasons of our lives and demonstrate that our cycle of life, or our seasons, are not only “normal“, but that they are ordained by God.

A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

A time to be born…
Spring reminds us of new life. Trees start greening-up, flowers start blooming, and it seems that new life is everywhere. Regardless of when they are born, babies are a Spring event, and one of the most joyous events in the life of a family. Babies being born speaks of there being a future, and they are the beginning of a new cycle of life.

Being born-again into Christ is also a Spring event, because we are given a new life, a life with an eternal future. Some of us who have experienced a misplaced Winter in life experience a very-welcome Spring as we emerge from that Winter experience. I am in that place now, having experienced a very brutal Winter, and I am looking forward to what lies ahead of me. I feel rejuvenated.

A time to die…
When someone we love passes on, it reminds us that we all have an appointment with the Grim Reaper, that unless the Lord returns beforehand, we will all die. That is the epitome of a Winter experience. Winter, in many parts of the world, is cold, bleak, seemingly lifeless. Thus it is with death. Life has been swallowed up by death, as the body lays cold and lifeless on the mortician’s slab. I lost my first wife to suicide in 1997. She was 45. I lost my brother to cancer in 2011. He was 54. I lost my father in 2013. He was 78. Each loss had its own unique effects on me.

It is also a time of grief. Someone who we loved has been taken from us, and it is natural for it to hurt. When someone who seemed “too young to die” dies anyway, we speak of it as an “untimely-death“, and yet ALL deaths are “untimely“. God didn’t engineer death and decay into the original “blueprint” for mankind. We were intended to live on and on. Death and decay are results of the fall of mankind into sin. At that, there were several patriaches in the Old Testament who live over 900 years. Moses was still climbing mountains, had a sharp mind, and still had good eyesight at 140 old. Abraham fathered more children at well over a 100 years old.

For many older couples, sex in their “golden-years” consists only of fond memories of days gone by, but that wasn’t in the original “blueprint” either. We know that we are dying when we have already had a funeral for our sex-life. Solomon wasn’t just talking about celebrating anniversaries when he said “Rejoice with the wife of your youth”(Proverbs 5:18b), because that follows “Let your fountain be blessed“(Proverbs 5:18a), which is clearly a metaphor for sex.

The natural seasons of life…
Our lives are pretty easy to divide up in seasons:
Spring is the first twenty years of our lives, as we grow from birth into adulthood.

Summer is the second twenty years of our lives, from ages 21 to 40. This is the time when most people get married, have children, and raise their family.

Fall is the third twenty years of our lives, from ages 40 to 60. This is the time when our children start leaving home and starting lives of their own. This is also the time when our bodies start reminding us that we aren’t young anymore. Mine started rebelling shortly after I turned 40.

Winter is usually the last twenty years of our lives. We are in our waning years. Our bodies may be in full rebellion, and even though some people are hale and hearty well into their 90’s, they are the rare exception. If we haven’t already, we start losing our own parents. I was 57 when I lost my dad, and even though my mom is still fairly vigorous at 83, she isn’t going to last forever.

A time to plant…
Planting is a late-spring to early-sumer activity, which coresponds to couples bearing children. My first wife and I put together a child-bearing “plan” when we first got married, and we were fortunate to be able to have children pretty much on “schedule“. Her younger sister, who had endometriosis, and who was married to man who was virtually sterile, wasn’t nearly as fortunate, although they were blessed with one daughter.

A time to uproot…
Uprooting” is an appropriate metaphor for leaving home. We leave home when we become adults to start a life of our own. We may also “uproot” several other times throughout our lives as we move to new jobs and new life-situations.

A time to kill…
Our lives are not static, and neither are our relationships. Some relationships, even if they started out healthy, become toxic, and we need to have the wisdom to leave those relationships behind. We may need to “pull-the-plug” or “kill” a relationship so that we can move on and heal.

A time to heal…
The person who may need to “heal” may be you or me. After going through a very toxic separation from my wife, I had a LOT of healing to do. It would NOT have been a good time for me to think about another relationship, because I was too broken and needed to heal. I am finally to a place where I might entertain the idea of “dating” or at least finding a “girlfriend“. It is NOT, as some would suppose, because I am tired of “sleeping single in a double-bed“, as I have become quite comfortable with sleeping that way. It is because I am tired of doing everything by myself. Something as basic as eating is more enjoyable when one has companionship. I enjoy going out and having dinner with friends, which I do a couple of times a month.

A time to tear down…
Tearing down” may be equated with leaving old relationships behind. When my previous wife and I got divorced, I left her alone on the courthouse sidewalk because her ride wasn’t back from doing his errands. She had filed for divorce, so she had to deal with the consequences. Her lack of a ride was NOT my problem. In order to minimize the hurt from that broken relationship, I had to minimize any further contact. I had to move on, and I did.

A time to build…
We also have to build new relationships. When I moved to where I am living now, I didn’t know a soul except for my wife, who left me a month later. I had to build new relationships. I am thankful that I was led to a good church, where I have been able to develop a few new relationships. I also have a strong relationship with my neighbor-gal, although it is more of a brother-sister relationship. Relationships are important to our emotional and psychological health.

A time to weep…
There are things that happen in our lives when it is appropriate to cry our eyes out, but I wouldn’t know, because crying isn’t part of my emotional-vocabulary. The shortest verse in the Bible says “Jesus wept“. He had just met His friends, Mary and Martha, whose brother, Lazarus, had been dead for several days. Lazarus was a dear friend, so Jesus did what was appropriate for the situation, He wept. I didn’t cry at my own wife’s funeral, nor have I cried much since.

A time to laugh…
Equally-important is laughter. Laughter is good for the soul, and the ability to laugh at yourself is especially important. Some people laugh naturally, and others have to be taught HOW to laugh. I am somewhere in the middle.

A time to mourn…
Weeping and mourning go hand in hand. When we lose a loved-one, we mourn losing them, and our weeping is a visible sign of our mourning.

A time to dance…
Dancing, in the Old Testament, was something the children of Israel did in celebration of God’s mighty acts on their behalf. King David also danced before the Lord through the streets of Jerusalem as the Ark of the Covenant was being brought into the House of the Lord.(2 Samuel 6:14-15) King David is described as only wearing a “linen ephod“, which appears to have been only a short vest, so for most practical purposes, He was wearing very little more than a grin, and a BIG grin, at that.

God did not allow King David to build a permanent temple. That would be Solomon’s job, but there was a temporary “temple” in Jerusalem, so it was very important to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and put it in the temporary temple. The Ark of the Covenant symbolized God’s presence among His people, so bringing it into Jerusalem WAS a HUGE event, and a time of joyous celebration. King David was entitled to dance for that celebration.

In our modern culture, dancing is also used for celebrations. Wedding celebrations often include dancing, with the new bride and groom getting the first dance alone. Whether it is a slow, intimate dance, a waltz, or even a jig, it is hard to be sad when a person is dancing.

A time to scatter stones…
When would we think of “scattering stones”? What if we were preparing a new spot for a garden? Would we want any stones in our garden? That applies to our relationships as well, because “stones” can represent those “rough-spots” in our relationships, those things that cause friction. We want to “work things out” so that we have the smoothest relationships we can attain. Relationships take work…

A time to gather stones…
Stones” can also be the boundaries around our relationships, our walls, what helps safeguard our relationships. We don’t want or need outside interference in our relationships, so good boundaries are an important part of that. This is similar to the stone walls that were built to protect cities, or even to protect a vineyard, in the cultures when this was written.

A time to embrace…
What is the most awaited, and celebrated kiss in a couple’s life? We wait with baited-breath for the celebrant to say, at the end of a wedding, “You may kiss your bride“. That first kiss ALWAYS brings a round of applause, as well it should. That is the first of, what should be thousands of kisses throughout a couple’s life.

Hugs have been largely-replaced by handshakes in American culture, and many men wouldn’t be caught dead hugging another man, and will only hug their wife or other immediate-family member, and yet touch is very important to our emotional and physical well-being. I am reminded of a picture I saw recently of twin baby girls who had been born several weeks prematurely. One of the babies was doing very well, but the other didn’t look like she was going to make it. One of the nurses, in a last-ditch effort, and against hospital-protocol, placed them together in the same crib. Once they were back together, as they had been in the womb, the one that had been struggling started coming around. The picture shows the healthier one with her arm around the weaker one. Babies who are deprived of physical affection often die quite young.

The Apostle Paul said “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” One pastor I know, when he preached on that passage, said that he would accept hugs, but to not “go-overboard” with it. I have to wonder how affectionate he is with his own family.

A time to refrain from embracing…
When would it be appropriate to refrain from embracing? We certainly DON’T “celebrate” a divorce with a hug, but…

A time to search…
When we lose something of value, we are naturally going to look for it, and that goes double for lost people. I was in Search and Rescue for about a dozen years, and I was involved in over 200 search missions. The most intense missions were searches for lost children. We pulled out ALL the stops. I could write a book about my experiences in SAR.

A time to give up…
Is there ever a hopeless-case, or lost-cause? We never closed out a mission without some kind of resolution. We did suspend a few missions, pending further clues and evidence, but I don’t remember closing any out without being resolved, one way or another. If there was another stone to turn over, we left no stone unturned.

Giving up is hard to do“… There also comes a time in some relationships when it becomes painfully-obvious that the relationship is not salvageable, and that it is at a dead-end. Giving up, and letting the person go, particularly emotionally, is painful at-best. I have had to come to that point over the last couple of years, because even though I am still “married“, on paper, my “marriage” ended January 16, 2013. I have given it everything I could muster, but to no avail, so I finally had to give-up and let-go. Giving up was hard to do, but I had to for my own emotional, psychological and physical well-being.

A time to keep…
Are you a pack-rat? I sure am, and “keeping” is what I do best, often even if it is not worth keeping. But, something that is always worth keeping is HOPE. How many times have you heard it said about a person with a terminal-illness “There is no hope…“? Several years ago, I met a man who was supposed to be dead long before that, but he and his family were living in the same RV park I was in at the time. Even though his doctors had given up hope that he would survive, he not only survived, he was thriving, because someone else didn’t give up on him and gave him a cure that his regular doctors didn’t even know about. His survival would have confounded the best cancer specialists, but what he never gave up was HOPE. Keep HOPE alive regardless of what life throws at you.

A time to throw away…
We live in a very “disposable” society. People throw things away, and people throw other people away. It is one thing to throw things away, but something entirely-different to throw someone away. What we REALLY need to throw away is the excess-baggage of our past. Many of us drag around the excess baggage of regrets, “What if’s?” and “If only…”s. We need to let that stuff go. We need to hear from the lips of Jesus “Your sins are forgiven“, and “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.“, as He released the burdens of her past from that “SINNER“. Every sinner has a future, and every saint has a past.

Max Lucado, in his book, “Traveling Light“, has taken a candid look at the excess baggage we carry around with us, and addressing it from the 23rd Psalm. It is a wonderful book, and yes, I need to read it again. If you have excess-baggage, you owe it to yourself to get a copy and read it as many times as it takes to sink in properly.

Folks, it is time to take out the trash… We may just find that our step is lighter and we can hold our head a bit higher.

A time to tear…
What do you LIKE to tear up? WHAT would you LIKE to tear up? Junk-mail comes to mind in the first instance, and bills come to mind in the second instance. I have no use for junk-mail, so it gets torn up and pitched immediately. Bills are an unwelcome-reminder that we can’t live this life for free.

There is another “bill” which grows ever-larger by the minute, that is, if you are not in Christ. We, prior to coming to Christ, owe a “bill“, a “debt” for ALL of our sins, and only God can tear up THAT bill. The good news is that, if you have come to Christ by faith, God has not only torn up your “bill“, He wouldn’t even know where to start looking to find it again.

Are you in any “goingnowhere” relationships? I think we all have had a few of those. They were good, even great, you grew farther and farther apart, and maintaining that relationship wasn’t worth the effort. Is it time to tear up that “friendcard“? Maybe it is.

Many years ago, I became friends with Gary. He lived in the neighborhood and worked with his dad. I used to go over there and hang out with him. We were several years apart in age, but that didn’t matter at the time. Then, Gary met Johnnie, and they became engaged shortly thereafter. A few months later, they got married. Johnnie already had a couple of children, so Gary married into a ready-made family. Not long after they got married, I graduated from high school and went into the military. Long-story-short…I had gone my own way, and Gary had gone his own way, and even when I returned from the military, our friendship had gone by the wayside. That wasn’t what I wanted, but I finally had to tear up that “friendcard“. I haven’t heard from or seen Gary in MANY years.

A time to mend…
Do you have a strained relationship with someone, perhaps one of your parents? Regardless of who is at fault, many people DO have a strained relationship with one or both of their parents. My ex-wife had been sexually-abused by her father from her early-teens til her early-20’s, and she didn’t talk to him for many years. She finally found it in her heart to forgive him and work on mending that relationship. By the time we got together, she was on good terms with her father, so I was able to get to know my father-in-law. She notified me a few days ago that he had passed away.

I have had no relationship with any of my children for over 17 years, not because I have tried, but because they haven’t been willing to reconnect. I hope that some day they will come around and be willing to reconnect with me. We can’t help mend what the other person is unwilling to help mend also.

A time to be silent…
Sometimes there are no appropriate words to say, and our silence and a listening-ear are the best gift we can give someone. When someone goes through a personal-tragedy, such as the sudden-loss of a loved-one, we DON’T know what and how they are feeling, because we all process personal-tragedies differently. There are other times when we may not be able to add something intelligent to a conversation, and at those times, “It is better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”.

A time to speak…
There are times when it is appropriate to yell “FIRE“, but if one yells “FIRE” at the wrong time, the consequences can be disastrous.

A time to love…
Love should come naturally, but it doesn’t always. We are commanded to “Love your neighbor as yourself“, but sometimes that is easier said than done. Because I have written extensively about love in other posts, I would refer you to them for further study.

A time to hate…
What should we hate? Is it ever right to hate a person? I believe that there is a fine line between hating what a person does and hating them, particularly when what they do that we hate seems to define them, but does it? Boko Haram and ISIS do some horrible things, and abject-brutality define their movements, but should we hate those who belong to Boko Haram and ISIS, or just what they do? If one of those groups invaded my community, and was harming or threatening to harm my friends and neighbors, I would do everything in my power to stop them, including using deadly-force.

How about the doctor and staff of an abortion clinic? I abhor what they do because they are murdering unborn children, but in the US of A, they have the law on their side, thanks to Roe vs Wade. What we CAN do is lobby to get the laws changed, but killing abortion doctors and bombing abortion clinics is not going to help anything.

A time for war…
Is war ever justified? Yes, but fabricating a “reason” to go to war NEVER is. I believe in having a strong defense to protect our own immediate interests, but meddling in other country’s affairs is NOT justification for committing our military forces.

A time for peace…
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:8) Our responsibility is to live peacefully with those around us, particularly within our own family.

Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Seasons…
We all go through them, and how we respond to the challenges of each season can make the difference whether we struggle or thrive. I hope that you will be encouraged by this little study to do what it takes to thrive, regardless of which season you find yourself in. Between birth and death, there is a WHOLE LOT of living to do.

God bless!
Steve