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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Promises II – Take Two

And the Word became flesh…

As we saw last week, the coming of a Savior – the Messiah, was foretold through promises given to Godly men and women beginning in the Garden of Eden. We saw how God preserved a holy line, beginning with Seth, up to and through the great flood, establishing the house of Shem as the lineage from which the Savior would come. We are now up to the promises given to Abraham, that Isaac would be his heir, and that all nations would be blessed through him. As we pick up there, we will see how God selected certain families to carry the guide-on towards the coming of the Savior.

Isaac Is Born
21 Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. 2 So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. 4 Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

8 The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. (Genesis 21:1-8)

The conception and birth of Isaac was a supernatural-event which had little to do with Abraham’s abilities but everything to do with Sarah’s abilities. A survey through the Old Testament will reveal that it was not uncommon for “old” men to father children with much-younger women, but Sarah was NOTmuch-younger”. She was ninety years old, well-past her child-bearing years. This should cause us to pause and reflect on the fact that the coming of Christ, the Messiah, was God’s doing from beginning to end. It was God’s plan to send a Redeemer, and He caused everything necessary to happen according to His plan, even the “most-unlikely” events.

The Offering of Isaac
22 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba. (Genesis 22:1-19)

Why did God test Abraham? Could it be that Abraham had come to trust the “promise”, Isaac, more than the “promiser”, God? Could it be, that in a culture that valued having an heir so highly that Abraham had tried to short-circuit God’s promise of an heir by having a son through Hagar, that he almost “worshiped” Isaac?

Having graciously committed Himself to Abraham, God tested Abraham’s obedience. In his obedience, Abraham displayed his full commitment to the Lord, symbolically receiving Isaac, the son of promise, back from death. God’s provision of the ram the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died instead of the elect so that they would live. In taking an oath to bless Abraham, and all nations through him, God guaranteed the promise to Abraham’s offspring.

The command to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to God is perplexing at first. Without know what God really had in mind, the command seems to contradict God’s moral law. As the narrative unfolds, however, it is evident that the test was whether Abraham would proceed with the preparations for sacrifice while holding steadfastly to the promise of 21:12, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” Abraham knew that God was obliged to keep His promise and he knew that if Isaac died, he could not continue the covenant line. Hebrews 11:19 unveils Abraham’s secret; he concluded “that God was able to raise Isaac up, even from the dead.

5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Notice that Abraham DIDN’T say “We will worship and I will return to you…” Abraham had every expectation that they would both return.

Isaac’s Sons
19 Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger.”

24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:19-34)

Esau was a profane, rough-and-ready man of the field who shortsightedly gratified his appetite and despised the family’s future inheritance. Despite his dishonesty, Jacob had the farsightedness to value the inheritance. Do you think God might have had something to do with that (v. 23)?

Jacob’s Deception
27 Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 2 Isaac said, “Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; 4 and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.”

5 Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you. 9 Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. 10 Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.” 11 Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.” 13 But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” 14 So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved. 15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.

18 Then he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” 20 Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the Lord your God caused it to happen to me.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 And he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” And he said, “I am.” 25 So he said, “Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.” And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Please come close and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said,

“See, the smell of my son
Is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed;
28 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,
And of the fatness of the earth,
And an abundance of grain and new wine;
29 May peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you;
Be master of your brothers,
And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be those who curse you,
And blessed be those who bless you.”

30 Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 Then he also made savory food, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” 32 Isaac his father said to him, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” 34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.” 36 Then he said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 But Isaac replied to Esau, “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept.

39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him,
“Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling,
And away from the dew of heaven from above.
40 “By your sword you shall live,
And your brother you shall serve;
But it shall come about when you become restless,
That you will break his yoke from your neck.” (Genesis 27:1-40)

Though Isaac knew God had chosen Jacob, he had intended to give everything to Esau. Esau finally broke-down after he realized that he had lost both his birthright and his blessing.

41 So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, “Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! 44 Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, 45 until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?”

46 Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?” (Genesis 27:41-46)

Unlike Abraham, who had taken the initiative to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24), Isaac dropped the ball. As a result, Esau married Hittite women, “daughters of Heth” against his parent’s wishes. Perhaps, hoping to somewhat get back in his father’s good-graces, he married one of the daughters of Ishmael, his uncle.

Jacob Is Sent Away
28 So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. 3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.” 5 Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. (Genesis 28:1-5)

Isaac finally “got-it”. He finally realized that Jacob was God’s chosen-heir, and heir to the covenant God made with Abraham. His first blessing to Jacob determined the patriarchal succession (27:27-29); this one explicitly linked Jacob with the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant (17:1-8).

Jacob’s Dream
10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Genesis 28:10-22)

As we read the stories of Jacob, it is easy to wonder which “side” he was really on, his or God’s? So, the Lord appeared to Jacob and gave him promises at critical points in his life; during his flight to Padan Aram (28:10-22), on his return to confront Esau (32:1, 2, 22-23), and when Jacob faced threats from Laban’s sons (31:1-3), and the Canaanites (35:1-15). God knows that we too have short memories and are easily side-tracked, and so, as He reminded Jacob of His promises, He also reminds us that He is ever-present and ever-faithful.

Jacob Wrestles With God
24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip. (Genesis 32:24-32)

In wrestling with Jacob, God appeared in human form and deprived Jacob of his natural strength, but Jacob emerged the victor by clinging to God for blessing. Jacob emerged from that encounter with God a changed-man, with a new name, Israel. Jacob, deprived on his natural strength and in pain, and would have to continue on in faith, faith that God was still “for-him” and would keep His promises.

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah
1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of David the king.

6 David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. 8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. 9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. 11 Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. 14 Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. 15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. (Matthew 1:1-16)

Tracing Jesus’ genealogy, we find something that was NOT common in Hebrew genealogies, the presence of women in the genealogy. Women aren’t usually named in Near Eastern genealogies, but they are intrinsic to God’s purpose in sending Christ into this world. The five women named in Jesus’ genealogy all remind us that God often does the unexpected and chooses the unlikely. Tamar (v. 3), reminds us of Judah’s failures (Genesis 38:6-30). Rahab (v. 5), was a harlot (Joshua 2). Ruth (v. 5), was a Moabite (Ruth 1:4), and thus subject to a special curse (Deut. 23:3-5). Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife (v. 6), was David’s downfall (2 Saumel 11). Mary fulfills Isaiah 7:14 (v. 23), and the even more important promise of Genesis 3:15 (Gal. 4:4-5).

Tamar
Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law. It is said that “Bad apples don’t fall far from the family tree”, and Judah proves that point. In Genesis 38, we find that Judah left the family community and married a heathen woman. They had three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah. Er married Tamar,but he was an evil man, so God took him. As was the custom of the day, Judah gave Tamar to Onan, but Onan refused to impregnate her, so God took him too. After Judah refused to give Shelah to Tamar, she tricked Judah into having sex with her, so that she could have an heir. (Genesis 38:12-30) How could this mess be part of the family-tree of the Messiah? Never fear, it gets even “juicier” from here.

Rahab
Do you remember the story of the fall of Jericho? Rahab was part of that story, beginning in Joshua 2. She hid the spies who went to check things out before the conquest of the Promised Land, and in return, she received a promise that she and her family would be spared when the children of Israel conquered Jericho. Jericho was destroyed in Joshua 6, but Rahab and her family were spared, as promised, in Joshua 6:22-23. Yes, even Rahab, a harlot, became part of the Messiah’s family tree. She was the mother of Boaz, who we will meet next in Ruth. This should remind us that God moves in mysterious ways…

Ruth
1  Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2  The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. 3  Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4  They took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5  Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband. (Ruth 1:1-5)

13  So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14  Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. 15  May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

The Line of David Began Here
16  Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. 17  The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

18  Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, 19  and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, 20  and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, 21  and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, 22  and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David. (Ruth 4:13-22)

Boaz stands-out in stark-contrast to Onan, who refused to be Tamar’s “kinsman-redeemer”, by truly fulfilling the role of the “kinsman-redeemer” for Naomi and Ruth. The beauty of Boaz’s selfless-act in becoming Naomi and Ruth’s “kinsman-redeemer” is that he became a “type” of Jesus Christ, our “kinsman-redeemer”.

Bathsheba
Bathsheba WAS David’s downfall. His first mistake was staying behind while he sent his troops out to war. (2 Samuel 11:1) David had time on his hands. How often do WE fall when we have time on our hands? David saw Bathsheba bathing and lusted for her. How many times had David seen Bathsheba naked before? How many times had he lusted for her before? Was it because David didn’t have an “available” woman to take to bed? I doubt it, because he already had several wives and concubines. Was Bathsheba a “temptress”? That is not how Nathan the prophet portrayed her in 2 Samuel 12:1-4. She was the innocent-victim of David’s sinful-choices. Even though their first child would die (2 Samuel 12:14-23), Bathsheba would bear David another son, Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24-25), through whom the Messiah would come. Solomon also built the first Temple.

Mary
God chose a poor, young girl from a backwater village to bear His Son. Mary was young – quite-likely no more than fourteen, and may have been as young as twelve when she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. BUT, she had great faith, faith that God would keep His promises.

Joseph
While most of the emphasis in the Christmas story is placed on Mary and her role in the Incarnation, we must not forget Joseph. Whatever hopes and dreams he had for their family got dashed big-time when Mary became pregnant before they got married. It was a huge “leap-of-faith” for Joseph to accept the responsibilities for being Jesus’ earthly-father. He couldn’t know how it would turn out.

Closing thoughts…
At this point, you may be wondering; “Where are all the “godly” people in this story? It sure appears that there are more “scoundrels and scumbags than saints””, and you are right. Sure, a few “saints” appear amid the “scoundrels and scumbags”, but they are few and far between. This story is about the God who keeps His promises, regardless of who He has to use. God can, and is using me, even with my “checkered-past”, because, in some ways, my story isn’t any “prettier” than theirs.

As much as we would like to think that all the patriarchs were “saints“, they weren’t. When God didn’t provide the promised son soon enough to suit Abraham, he took matters into his own bedroom with another woman. Jacob was a master of dirty-dealing, bilking Esau out of both his birthright AND his father’s blessing. While we didn’t look at the chapters dealing with Jacob’s marriages and his dirty-dealings with his father-in-law, he was no “saint” there either. These things should remind us that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called“, and as inadequate as we may feel to do the work of the Lord, we have His sure-promise that He will be with us all the way.

In Christ,
Steve

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!

Why Am I Here?

That isn’t a rhetorical question, because it gets to heart of why I am still alive and taking up space on this planet. I could say that I am here because I have a mission to accomplish, but that would only be a partial-answer. The reality is that I should have been dead over forty years ago, but obviously I am not dead yet. I am not here because I want to be here, although I certainly do want to be here. The crux of the answer lies in Who controls my life and my “fate“.

There have been enough twists and turns, and ups and downs in my life to make a cork-screw look like an eight-lane super-highway. It is those twists and turns, and ups and downs which have brought me to where I am now, and as I look back on the last forty-plus years, had my life been the super-highway I envisioned, my life would have been very different than it is and my current mission could never have come about. So, sit back and relax while I lead you through my journey through hell.

 

1975 – I was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and we had just had an ice-storm which left a sheet of black-ice in patches on the turnpike. It was snowing as a buddy and I headed south from Fort Sill towards Wichita Falls, Texas, in my Dodge pickup to see some of his family when we hit one of those patches of black-ice. It was dark, so we couldn’t see the ice until we hit it, and had it only been my driving-skill controlling that truck, we would have either been in a ditch or in the median. I still remember the rear-end of the truck fish-tailing at least forty-five degrees each way before straightening up…just as we hit a patch of dry road. Someone else was in control.

 

1978 – I had met the love of my life, and we got married on April 15th, income-tax day, with the expectation of “happily-ever-after“. Our marriage didn’t stay “happily-ever-after” for long because I was no “Prince charming“. My parent’s marriage was at best dysfunctional so I didn’t see a good marriage modeled as I was growing up.

 

Mid-1997 – I badly-needed a break, a mini-vacation, because I was working six days a week, averaging 55-60 hours a week, and the stresses both at work and at home were piling-up. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that our marriage was falling apart at the seams. I found out by “quirk of fate” (If you believe that, I have some real estate for sale, including some land that is under-water 13 months out of the year and a bridge that leads to nowhere.) about Oak Lake Trails, a nudist resort in northern Oklahoma and decided that would be the perfect get-away. I was NOT a nudist (Unlikely Nudist), but I wanted to try it anyway. It did turn out the be the perfect get-away, and I enjoyed two delightful weekends there. I still wasn’t “hooked“, but that experience planted the seed which would mature many years later. Yes, we lived in rural Oklahoma, not central Florida.

During this time-frame, I also received four death-threats, one from a man who I owed $25 to, and who was caught with explosives in his vehicle, and the other three were from a brother-in-law who thought that the best way to take care of our family-problems was to “eliminate” me. Another brother-in-law offered to pay for the divorce if my wife would divorce me.

 

October 1997 – I lost my job due to “management-streamlining“, even though I still haven’t figured out how they became more “efficient” when it took three people, who didn’t know what they were doing, to do my job. I was also forced to move out of our home and in with my parents. I took whatever day-work I could because I had no other income. I was doing some work for a friend on that fateful day when my wife decided to end it all, thus giving me an air-tight alibi that there was no way I could have been at my family’s home that afternoon. When I got back to my parent’s home later that evening, they gave me the horrific-news that my wife had committed suicide that afternoon. My plans for our twentieth wedding-anniversary went down the tubes along with any hopes for “happily-ever-after“. I was devastated.

 

1998 – I met my second wife online early in 1998, and after somewhat of a “whirlwind-romance“, we got married in August 1998. She was living in Phoenix and I was living in Oklahoma City, so after we got married in Phoenix, I moved her to Oklahoma City, where my dad and I had remodeled a mobile home for us to live in.

 

December 1999 – My wife and I flew to Florida for Christmas, and while we were in Florida, I had the opportunity to stroll on Boynton Beach – in shorts and T-shirt. We had left snow and freezing-cold weather behind and were enjoying semi-tropical weather – in December. I asked her whether she would be interested in moving to Florida, and a split-second later, she asked me when we were moving. Before we got on the plane to fly back home, she had TWO job-offers, one with a firm reporting-date. Who arranged THAT???

 

February 2000 – We arrived in Florida on Valentine’s Day, and within a few days, we were able to rent an apartment close to where my wife was going to be working – that we could rent by the month. This was important because we planned to buy our own place as soon as possible, and we didn’t want to be tied-up with a lease. I won’t bore you with the details, but less than ninety-days after we arrived in Florida, we were able to move into our brand-new, custom-built double-wide mobile home on our own piece of land. Okay, maybe a couple of details: The land had JUST gone on the market, and there was already a well and septic-tank on it, which saved us a LOT of money.

 

Fall 2006 – My wife and I decided that we did not want to retire in Florida, strange as that may seem, but with rapidly-rising property-taxes and sky-rocketing property-insurance, particularly on mobile homes, even with two incomes, it wasn’t going to be long before we couldn’t afford to live in Florida, so we decided to move to either South Carolina or North Carolina. I grew up around Greenville, South Carolina, so we started looking in that area. Unfortunately the places we really liked weren’t all that accessable, particularly in winter, and jobs, even for her, were few and far between. We finally found a home we both liked in Mount Holly, North Carolina. That area had the advantage of being close enough to Charlotte that working in Charlotte was both reasonable and practical, AND, she was able to get a job-transfer to a facility in Charlotte.

The home we found to buy had been foreclosed, so it had been repainted inside and had new carpet. It was also out in the country but in a small neighborhood. We celebrated Thanksgiving in our new home.

There was just one fly in the ointment. We still owned the home in Florida also, and that was when real-estate values were starting to go downhill very quickly. We still owed almost as much as that property was worth in the depressed market, so finding a buyer was a crap-shoot.

Another problem quickly reared its ugly head, lack of a job for me. Even though I had a lot of facilities maintance experience, I didn’t have the credentials or experience that industrial plants were looking for. I was offered one job, but when left that plant with a serious headache, I said “No thanks“. They sprayed a LOT of chemicals but didn’t have very good ventilation or exhaust in the plant. That only left one option, for me to go back to Florida where I could go back to my old job, and I could be there to more actively try to sell that home.

 

Easter 2007 – Sometime between 3am and 5am I had an eye-stroke. I had gotten up at about 3am to use the restroom and everything was fine, but when I woke up at about 5am needing to use the restroom, my right eye was blind. That nixed my plans to go to the Easter sunrise service at my church. The next day, I called an eye doctor I had seen before and was able to get right in. I had had an eye stroke, and the chances of regaining my eyesight were slim to none. He also told me to go to an emergency room ASAP, which I did that evening. I was admitted to the stroke unit of Monroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala early the next morning, and spent four days there being checked out before I got discharged, on Friday the 13th.

My wife didn’t come down from North Carolina to be with me, and she didn’t even send me a card. She filed for divorce six weeks later. In the divorce decree, she demanded and got a quit-claim deed to the property in North Carolina so that she was the sole-owner. She also dumped the Florida property on me, along with several thousand dollars worth of credit-card debt – for things that SHE kept. I also had to let my vehicle go back to the bank because I couldn’t afford to pay for it either. The home in Florida also got foreclosed, so I didn’t even have my own home to live in. Thankfully my parents had moved to Florida by then so at least I had a place to stay, and I was able to find a cheap vehicle to buy. That seemingly ill-fated move had cost me everything including my health. I had become a liability to her, so she dumped me.

 

The ink was barely dry on the divorce decree when I met my third wife. We dated for several months before getting married in the spring of 2008. I also bought a fifth-wheel travel trailier for us to live in, which I am still living in as we speak. That marriage lasted less than three years before she decided that she didn’t need me either. When I lost my job, I became a liability to her too. Ironically, she had promised that she would NEVER dump me like my second wife had. Sure, and I have a bridge for sale…a bridge to nowhere.

 

September 2010 – My dad started getting sick in early 2010, and by September, he was getting to be too much of a handful for mom to care for by herself, so I moved back in with them. When regular blood-work didn’t show any problems, his doctor referred him to a neurologist. That doctor ordered more blood-work and a spinal-tap. Those tests revealed that he had advanced-stage Lyme disease and tertiary-syphilis. Those diseases were destroying his brain. We had him admitted to Hospice on the 29th of September.

Dad wasn’t getting markedly-worse, but he also wasn’t getting any better, so right after Thanksgiving, we had him transferred to a nursing home, where he spent the rest of his days. Dad died on October 1st, 2013. I had been up to see him less than a month before he died.

 

August 2011 – I was on my way home from a month-long vacation when I was involved in an accident which should have been my last. I was two-hours south of St. Louis when a young lady clipped the right-rear door of my vehicle, sending me into a 270-degree spin at 65 miles-per-hour. My vehicle and I landed rear-end-first in a 25-foot deep ditch. I walked away without a scratch even though my vehicle was very much the worse for wear. I was seriously-shaken, but otherwise okay. My “guardian-angel” deserves “hazardous-duty-pay” for keeping me safe that day.

 

October 2012 – I met my fourth wife online, and after a whirlwind romance, we got married December 6th, 2012. A few days later, I moved down here. Less than six weeks after we got married, she also flew the coop, and moved in with another man. Thus began some of the darkest days of my life, second only to losing my first wife. I have chronicled a lot of what I went through in earlier posts on this blog.

 

Why has God allowed any of these events to happen in my life? Were they part of His plan? Hindsight may be 20-20, but that doesn’t make any of these events any less painful. Had none of these events taken place, yes, I might still be happily-married to my first wife, but this blog would have never come about, and I would not have been in a situation where starting a ministry at Cypress Cove became possible.

I have been asking God WHY He allowed my wife to commit suicide over eighteen years ago, and as strange as it may seem, I am now beginning to understand. As horrific as that event was, it was “necessary” in order that I could get to where I am now. What other horrific-event happened almost two-thousand years ago which was for our “good“?

 

Many years ago, another man went through many hardships, which culminated in him being in a position to save his family from certain-starvation. That man was Joseph. He was sold by his jealous brothers to slave-traders and wound up in Egypt. After spending some time in prison, because God was watching over him, he rose to being second-in-command over all of Egypt. God used him to save both the nation of Egypt and His chosen people from starvation during a seven-year famine. When he finally revealed his identity to his brothers, he told them something that may help us gain a better perspective on the hardships in our lives.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:3-8)

Two things ought to jump out at you. In verse 5, Joseph said “God sent me before you to preserve life.“, and in verse 8, he said “So now it was not you who sent me here, but God;“. God had a plan, and Joseph was a vital-part of that plan.

The Apostle Paul also went through many hardships, and he left us with another piece of divine-wisdom. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Neither Joseph nor Paul ever said that the events themselves were good, but that God can and does cause good to come from these events. God never lets people off of the hook for the evil events they perpetrate in our lives even if He does cause “good” to come as a result of those events. Joseph’s brothers will still be held accountable for selling him into Egypt even though the “good” that came out of that event was the salvation of their families.

The Jewish religious-leaders, the Roman government and the Roman soldiers will still be held accountable for crucifying Jesus even though the “good” that came out of that events was our salvation. Likewise for Paul, all those who opposed him and caused all of his hardships will beheld accountable for their actions even though the “good” that came out of those actions was the spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman empire and his many Epistles.

My wives and everyone else involved will be held accountable for their actions, even though you are reading some of the “good” and the ministry at Cypress Cove is part of that “good“. Yes, I will also beheld accountable for all of my sinful actions as well. One day God will settle ALL scores, and only those who are trusting in the shed-blood and finished-work of Jesus Christ won’t be condemned to eternity in Hell.

God has a plan for each of our lives, and sometimes we have to go through difficult situations in order for that plan to come to fruition. I am not here by “quirk-of-fate” or by “chance“. I am here because God brought me here, and if someone had told me along the way that I would be where I am now, I would have serious questioned their sanity. Maybe it is time for me to say what Jesus said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – The Birth Of Christ

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 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.

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 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, and 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 stone, 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, dreams that this turn of events might change? 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 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 travellers, 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, which she may have brought 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 shepherd 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 a blessed Christmas and a healthy and productive New Year!
Steve

The Life Of Christ…an Introduction

I know I already have the cart far ahead of this horse, but I really hadn’t planned to do a series on the life of Christ. The more I have pondered the life of Christ, the more I am coming to realize that there is no better usage of my time and resources than to study our Lord, because if I am to be more like Him, I need to know as much about Him as I can.

In my first segment, “How Human was Jesus?“, I explored the physical, visible reality of His humanity. He was just like me, male-equipment and all. In “How Human Was Jesus? Part 2“, I tried to put together a “photo-album” of his early life, with the purpose of emphasizing that, apart from His virgin birth, He was an ordinary child, and He went through all the stages of growth that my own children did. As the father of four children, I am intimately-acquainted with what children go through from birth through puberty.

Jesus wasn’t simply just born, appeared in the temple at twelve years-of-age, when He became legally an adult, and then burst on the scene at thirty years of age, when He began His public ministry. Along the way, He witnessed the miracle of life as His mother gave birth to several brothers and sisters. He was “big-brother” to several brothers and sisters. He probably became an accomplished carpenter like His dad, Joseph, and when He walked out of the J&J Carpentry Shop for the last time, it may well have been closed forever, because even though His mother, Mary, and His siblings are mentioned several times throughout His ministry, Joseph is only alluded to. Certainly by the time He went to the cross, Mary was a widow and Jesus was the “man of the house“, at which time He commissioned John to take on His responsibility. The only part of our human experience that He didn’t experience first-hand was being a husband and father.

So, welcome aboard. Sit back, relax and buckle up, as we explore the life of Christ. Come grow with me as we find out what it means to be more like Him. Don’t be surprised if your theological “house” gets remodeled, because to be a Christian is to be like Christ, in our thoughts, words and deeds. Mine certainly has been. One of the most important things we can do is ask “What would Jesus do?“, but if we don’t know what He did, we won’t have a clue as to what we should do. I don’t have a “plan” per se, so what I write about will be what comes into my heart that I can’t get away from.

God bless!
Steve

How Human Was Jesus? Part 2

In my first segment on the humanity of Jesus, I focused on the physical evidences of His humanity. While it may be uncomfortable to some to think of Jesus in this way, if He was less than fully-human, displaying all the physical attributes of His humanity, He could not have been our Redeemer. Because some in His day believed that Jesus only “appeared” to be human, the Apostle John focused in one His humanity, not only in the Gospel of John, but also in 1st and 2nd John.

We only get a few snapshots of His early life in Scripture, as if we are only seeing pages ripped out of the photo-album of His life, but those snapshots paint an incomplete picture of Him. What about the rest of His thirty years before His baptism by John the Baptist? Jesus didn’t simply get born, and voila, He was a man. He experienced life as any child does as he or she grows into adulthood.

As a baby…

Jesus entered our world as every child has since Adam and Eve had their first child. He was born, and His birth was in a filthy, smelly stable. Nothing clean or sanitary about His birth. He was wrapped in whatever rags were available. Scripture calls them “swaddling cloths“. There were no Pampers, He had no “baby-clothes“. He was simply wrapped up with what was available.

We are told that He was circumcised and named on His eight day of life, as was the custom. There had been no “baby-shower“, so He didn’t have some cute outfit for this ceremony. When He was forty days old, His parents took Him to the temple to dedicate Him to the Lord, and offer the sacrifices which were required for His mother’s ceremonial purification. His “baby-album” ended with this snapshot.

Was He a cranky baby when He was cutting teeth? Teething is not a pleasant experience for any baby, and I am sure that He was no exception. He experienced the pains of baby-hood just as every child does.

Did He ever have an ear-infection or runny nose? Only about half of all babies born made it to their thirteenth birthday. Infant mortality was very high.

What were His first words? Was He a “super-baby” speaking in whole sentences almost immediately, or were His first words “Ma-Ma” and “Da-Da“? Babies have been learning to talk since the first one was born, and He was no exception.

Did He crawl before He walked? How many times did He skin His nose or knees learning to walk? Floors back then weren’t well-padded carpet. The very poor had dirt floors in their homes. He didn’t enter our world to live in luxury. He left that behind so that He could experience life with the poorest of us. How old was He before He got His first pair of sandals? Did His parents have trouble keeping clothes on Him? Young children, who have never been taught that their bodies are shameful, will happily run around naked any chance they get.

As a toddler…

The next snapshot we get was when His life was threatened and His parents were forced to flee to Egypt. That was a long, hard journey, which may have taken several weeks to complete. They rode donkeys, and if they had a tent, camped in it. Otherwise, they slept on the ground under the stars. There were no motels along the way, perhaps a rustic inn or two, but nothing we would find appealing.

How many siblings did He have by then? Joseph and Mary didn’t consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born, and probably not until after her purification was complete. Did Mary get pregnant on their wedding-night?

Did they travel to Egypt with both a toddler and a baby? Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus had brothers and sisters. That was a journey unlike any we have ever experienced. They were also traveling to a foreign country. It is one thing to travel by car for hundreds of miles and stay with family and friends or in a hotel, but quite a different story traveling that same distance on foot or on a donkey with one or more young children.

Out of Egypt…

Once the threat was no longer there, God told the family to go back home, except that it wasn’t back to their hometown. They would have to start in a new community – Nazareth. Joseph didn’t have his old carpenter shop to go back to. It wasn’t easy starting all over again. There wasn’t a department store on every corner where they could get everything necessary to set up their new home.

Meanings…

You are probably thinking “Steve, why all the detail?”. Until we deal with the nitty-gritty of His life, we won’t really understand why He was described as “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief“. The nitty-gritty IS what makes Him one of us, fully-human. I grew up poor, but we were rich by comparison.

In the temple…

The next snapshot we find in Scripture is when He was twelve years old. His parents had journied to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. As they traveled back home with their friends and neighbors, Jesus came up missing. His parents asked around if any of their friends and relatives had seen Him, but no one could remember exactly where they saw Him last. They were panic-stricken.

It wasn’t safe to travel alone, which was why they traveled as a group. As a father, and as someone who has been involved with many missing-child searches, I can relate intimately with how they felt. There was only one thing to do, turn back and search until they found Him. That search took three days.

As a foretaste of His roles as our Prophet and Priest, His parents found Him in the temple in Jerusalem discussing Scripture with the religious teachers. They were amazed at His knowledge at such a young age, and they would continue to be amazed throughout His ministry.

Was He Just a rebelous almost-teenager, or was there a connection with God the Father that His parents didn’t understand? “And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Jesus, Emanuel, God with us, was no ordinary child.

His parents didn’t understand, because the mystery of the Incarnation was as huge a mystery to them as it is to us today. “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:50-51)

As an adolescent…

Even though Jesus was no ordinary child in a spiritual sense, He still went through the trials of puberty. As the Creator of our bodies, He experienced first-hand what it was like to go through everything a young boy experiences. How old was He when His voice started cracking and deepening? Did He go through a precocious puberty, or was He normal for His age? Did He ever have pimples? How old was He when peach-fuzz turned into a real beard? Babies don’t become men overnight, and He was no exception.

Questions…

Have you confronted His full humanity yet, or are you content with the sanitized version of Jesus Christ? If we ignore what it actually took for Jesus to go from being a new-born baby to being a grown man, it is quite easy to see Him as a “super-human“. Turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding thousands of people, healing sick people and even raising the dead are more the marks of a “super-human“, not what we would expect of an ordinary guy, and yet, as a human, a man, He was totally-ordinary. God didn’t come down and merely inhabit a human body. God became human. He was the God-Man, and He often celebrated His humanity by using the title “Son of Man“, not the exalted titles of His deity.

As a teen…

What was the first thing He built in His dad’s shop? Was it as perfect as He was? Did He struggle with learning all the languages of His era? Many Jews of His day were multi-lingual, and even though Hebrew was the national language of the Jews, Greek, Latin and Aramaic were also in common use. The Roman empire had conquered all of the know world, and all of the languages of the various countries in the empire could be heard in the streets, particularly in Jerusalem.

Manhood…

When did Jesus have to become the man of the house? How old was He when His dad died? Joseph is never mentioned in the accounts of His ministry. I am sure that He mourned the loss of His dad as any other young man would. One of His tasks as the oldest son was to make sure His mother was well cared-for, and even as He suffered on the cross, He commissioned John to be His mother’s care-taker. As He bore our sins on the cross, He didn’t neglect His human responsibility. How many other family-members did He lose on His way to the cross? Had He already lost some of His siblings?

What if…

What if we could look at a complete photo-album of His life? What uncomfortable truths would it reveal? How would our perceptions of Jesus of Nazareth be changed? Would we still worship and adore Him, or would the nitty-gritty of His life scare us away? Would we, like His brothers and sisters, think that He had lost His mind when He claimed to be God?

Why?

Why have I tried to build a photo-album of word-pictures of Him? God didn’t see fit to provide us more details, but that doesn’t mean that those details aren’t important. The Apostle John told us the purpose of his gospel; “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31). John ended His gospel with these words; “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) Your redemption, your salvation, and mine too, depends on His full humanity.

Your turn…

Are you ready to kneel beside that manger and adore the Great I AM? Would you kiss the face of God? Would you cry with the Word who became flesh as His tender foreskin was cut and removed? Would you crawl around on that dirty floor with the Prince of Peace? Would you hold out your hands as the Everlasting Father took His first few steps? Would you play hide-and-seek with the Mighty God on the dusty streets of Nazareth? Would you listen intently as the Wonderful Counselor spoke His first few words? Would you marvel with the teachers as Emmanuel, God with us, spoke wisdom way beyond His years? Would you admire that beautiful wooden sculpture which He made with His own hands?

Are you ready to step down to the edge of the river to be baptized with the Lamb of God? Would you gladly introduce your friends to Jesus? Would you forsake everything to follow Him? Would you dine at the table of a tax collector with Him? Would you have had a heart-attack when you saw Him walking on water? Would you weep with Him in front of the grave of a close friend? Would you throw your garment down before Him as He rode that donkey into Jerusalem? Would you vie with John for the place closest to Him at that Last Supper? Would you be embarrassed as He laid aside His garments to wash your feet, taking on the role of a servant? Would you weep at the foot of the Cross as the Messiah bore your sin and shame, naked, battered and beaten? Would you be grief-stricken with Mary Magdalene when you found that His tomb was empty? Could you contain your joy when you received word that your Lord was alive, risen from the dead? Would you run to the empty tomb with Peter and John? Would you offer Him that bread and fish? Those who knew Him best were never the same. They had been with Jesus.

Do you want the healing of spirit and soul that only comes from the Great Physician? Come to Jesus. Come to the God-Man. Embrace and adore the Son of Man. He is the KING of kings and the LORD of lords, and our own flesh and blood is at the Father’s right hand, forever. You will never be the same.

Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels.
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!

In Christ,
Steve

How Human Was Jesus?

Throughout the history of the church, there has been a faction in the church that believed that Jesus only appeared to be a human – a man, and the question of Jesus’s humanity has serious implications for both our life and for our salvation.

This question was so important to the Apostle John, that after he proclaimed Christ’s full deity, he also proclaimed His full humanity. John also devoted large sections of 1st John to Christ’s humanity, and then reiterated it in 2nd John. Let’s start by looking at these pivotal Scriptures:

The Eternal Word

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

The Word Becomes Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

What Was Heard, Seen, and Touched

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:1-4)

Could He have been “the King of the Jews” if He hadn’t been fully-human? So, just how human WAS Jesus?

Christ’s Birth Announced to Mary

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. (Luke 1:26-38)

His Conception…

The mystery of the Incarnation, God, in Jesus Christ, taking on human flesh, begins with His miraculous conception. If order for Him to be fully and truly human, He had to have a human parent, who was His mother. In order for Him to be human, yet sinless, required that His Father be divine. We aren’t told anything about the mechanism of His conception, except that it was by the Holy Spirit. Did God create one perfect sperm with human genetics, but without a human source? If so, did God create that sperm to replicate His earthly “father’s” genetics, so that He looked just like “one of the boys“? During His earthly ministry, those around Him had no problem matching Him up with His siblings. What we do know is that His mother Mary was a virgin, and that He had no human biological father. Those are questions which will have to wait for Heaven. Mary knew that what was going to happen was not humanly-possible, since she was a virgin and not yet married.

Christ Born of Mary

2 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

His Birth…

Jesus came into the world the same way every other human has, with the exceptions of Adam and Eve. The only thing out of the ordinary was His conception, and the fact that His mother was a virgin. She was a young Jewish peasant girl, who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. His step-father was a Jewish carpenter.

The “Bethlehem Maternity Center” was a stable, a place where animals could retreat from the weather. We are not even told that Mary and Joseph had a mid-wife to help with that special delivery, let alone doctors and nurses. His first “crib” was a feeding trough (manger), and His first set of clothes were “swaddling cloths“, whatever was handy to wrap a baby in.

His life…

Jesus was circumcised eight days after He was born, as all boys who were born into Jewish society were. Circumcision was no sterile medical procedure with all the conveniences of the modern hospital. Knives were crude at best, not exactly Wilkinson Sword quality, so they did more tearing of the flesh, rather than cutting it cleanly. He bled, He cried when it was done, and it hurt. Yes, Jesus was born a fully-equipped male baby, and that fact would become important during His crucifixion.

While we have little information in the Bible about His early life, I believe it is safe to assume that He grew up like any other Jewish boy of His day and time. He played in the dusty streets of whatever town they were living in when He wasn’t in school or learning to be a carpenter. How many times did He skin His knees up? Did He ever trip and fall? Was He a real child…

As a teen, did He ever have a “wet-dream“, or as He grew into adulthood, did He ever wake up with a “morning-glory“? Those things sound too “crude“, too “vulgar” for the Incarnate Son of God, but as the architect and creator of our male bodies, He gave us those physiological responses to help keep ours AND His equipment in good working-order. Have we forgotten that His favorite title for Himself was “the Son of Man“? He called Himself “the Son of Man” more times than all of His other titles combined. I seriously doubt that He ever said “Why, Oh why, did I create men this way?”.

How often did He smash His thumb while learning to drive a nail? How many splinters did He get from the rough-cut wood that they used? We see many references throughout His teachings to things relating to construction and His trade as a carpenter. As He hefted one of those crude, rough nails, could He almost feel it tearing through His flesh? Was His shadow shaped like a Cross, knowing that He created the tree He was going to be crucified on?

Our problem…

Our “Jesus” is too “clean“, too “sanitary“, too “unearthly” for Him to really have been “one of us“. We can’t imagine a “Jesus” with diaper-rash when He was a baby, or that when He was young, He ran around “naked as a jaybird” like real children do if they get the chance. He ate, He drank, He pooped, He peed, just like we do, but those things just don’t seem “God-like” enough for Him. He got tired, He got hungry, He got thirsty, and He even cried. How “unmanly“, and yet Scripture affirms all of these to be true. He experienced the complete “human experience” while He walked this Earth. He was tempted, but He never succombed to temptation. He was sinless, although He always attracted a crowd of sinners around Him, and He certainly enjoyed a good glass of wine.

We have strapped our own body-shame issues to Jesus, as if He had the same kind of body-shame that we carry around. We can’t imagine a “Jesus with a penis” because we have been taught to be ashamed of our own sexual equipment, and yet, had He not been born “fully-equipped“, penis and all, Pilate could not have declared Him to be “The King of the Jews” when He was crucified. No penis=no “king“, not circumcised=not a “Jew“.

Why does His humanity matter?

The short answer is that, if Jesus wasn’t fully-human, He could not have brought salvation to us. His death, burial and resurrection would have been a fraud if He wasn’t fully-human, and we would be miserable, hell-bound idiots for believing this fairy-tale. If Jesus wasn’t human, I, and my fellow Christian bloggers, writers, pastors, teachers, missionaries and evangelists are perpetuating a hoax, a lie, but we aren’t. Jesus was, and still is, as human as you and I, and as we prepare to celebrate His Incarnation, God taking on human flesh, this is the greatest story of the most wonderful event in human and redemption history.

I invite you to kneel before the manger, and bow before the KING of Kings and the LORD of Lords, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. He is worthy of ALL of our worship and adoration.

God bless and Merry Christmas!
Steve