Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Devotional Thought From Luke’s Gospel

Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.      Luke 15:1, 2

                One of the great criticisms of Jesus was this one: This man receiveth sinners.

                The religious legalists could not get their heads around the fact that God did not feel the way about sinners that they did. They looked down on others who did not meticulously keep the laws set forth by the scribes as well as they, the legalists, did. They looked down on those who did not dress as well as they, the legalists, did every day. These were ordinary people who, if they were judged by ordinary civic standards, would come out being considered, for the most part, decent human beings. But they were not up to the “really religious” standards of those who saw themselves as the righteous ones, so the “righteous ones” considered them the low down dirt of the earth. Of course, some of them were: Roman tax collectors and collaborators, others, perhaps, liars, cheats, harlots, whatever, AND/SO  even you, dear readers, think they deserved to not be received by Jesus, or at least his church, yet he received them. Aaaaghh!

                Think back to the manger. Around Jesus was a mother who was self-proclaimed as one who needed a savior; an earthly father who had to be convinced that the sordid thought he had about his bride was wrong; shepherds who certainly were sinners of some sort at least by Pharisaical standards; wise men, or kings, if the tradition is true, who very likely were throughout their life time involved in the academic, or political, or occultic intrigue that would surround their occupations. In other words, the savior in the manger had sinners all around him even then!

                The Pharisees missed the glory of Jesus, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Sinners! BTW, they, the Pharisees, and us, we’re sinners. Thank God Jesus receives us!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Devotional Thought From Luke’s Gospel

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.     Luke 11:31

                Speaking of himself in comparison with arguably the greatest king of ancient Israel, at least regarding wealth and extension of the kingdom, and reputation in the world, Jesus says, a greater than Solomon is here.

                The Magi inquired where is he that is born King of the Jews, and to have made the life interrupting, life changing, journey that they made makes it obvious they thought this King of the Jews they sought was someone special, probably greater than any King the Jews had ever had before, which would include both Solomon, and the present ruler Herod, the Great.

                                A beloved Christmas Carol focuses our thoughts of Christmas on this part of the story with the phrase, “Born is the King of Israel.”

                Solomon’s wisdom was sought by other kingdoms in the world, rulers who came from the utmost parts of the earth; Jesus is greater than Solomon. His wisdom is greater, and he offers salvation, and a daily relationship to God. The national leaders of the countries of this world today should be seeking out Jesus because he can make marvelous changes in their understanding about how to make their nations prosper and be at peace (in addition to individual salvation). If they do not seek him and his ways they will continue on the tragic paths they often follow to their nation’s hurt and the world’s.

                And, if individuals are not wise enough to seek him and the greater wisdom and salvation he offers they will eventually fall into eternal condemnation.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Devotional Thought From Luke

And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered everyone at all things which Jesus did, …     Luke 9:43

                So what happened was, the crowd of people around Jesus were amazed at the power of God when Jesus cast out the demon afflicting one man’s son, and they wondered, they thought about what this and other miracles Jesus did could mean. They thought about, and hopefully thought it through, and came to an accurate realization of what his work said about him. They pondered, as it were, these things in their hearts.

                At this season of the year, Christmas time, such an idea takes us back to Bethlehem in Judea where shepherds who saw the realization of the angel message that they would find a baby in a manger who is literally the Savior, Messiah, and Lord of the people of God, proclaimed it throughout the town, and we are told those who heard that reporting wondered ( I wonder if this announcement could really be true, and if it is, I wonder what this all means for me, my people and nation, the world.) At the same time the young mother of that newborn, who had already heard many amazing things about the child she was given to bear, listened to the shepherds’ story and saw them shouting it into town, and she pondered it  in her heart (How does this fit in with what I already know? Will I ever understand my baby?).

                Decades after they wondered at Bethlehem they were still wondering about this Jesus who had come from the Father.  If the Christmas message declared by churches worldwide can get people to wonder about Jesus, and ponder his identity and purpose in coming to earth, lives around the globe, and the world system itself, can change, and, in many ways, be made new.

                Go tell it in the churches and in their ministries everywhere that Jesus the savior and king is born.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Devotional Thought From The Gospel Of Luke

When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?     Luke 7:20

                One of the most poignant questions of all time was when John, the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, the identifier of the Lamb of God, the last great prophet of Old Testament times, becomes so depressed as he sits in prison awaiting an unsure fate that he sends to Jesus…  Now remember John had declared with great faith and supreme confidence that not only had the long-awaited Messiah come, but that Messiah is Jesus. He had pledged his allegiance to Jesus with the great statement, He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30). This was a monumental ministry and pronouncement, but now oppressed by the evils of the day, punished for his stand against evil in favor of righteousness… awaiting an unsure fate he sends to Jesus with the poignant question, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

                Perhaps, this is not the first time such a question is asked about Jesus. God’s people throughout the ages had expected a powerful Deliverer, not a baby; a Warrior-King, not a helpless baby; a watchful Shepherd, not a baby who needed watching himself.  Is the baby the Savior, or do we look for another? Is the baby the Christ, or do we look for another? Is the baby the Lord, or do we look for another?

                Look no further than the manger to find a Deliverer who will go to the cross for you. Look no further than the manger for the Warrior-King who will victoriously set up his kingdom. Look no further than the manger for the Lord who rules heaven and earth. The Bible scriptures make it plain: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: … His name shall be called … The Mighty God …The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, … (John 1:45).

                Look not for another. The Baby is the one who should come! Jesus is Christmas! Let your celebration of Him be happy, holy, joy filled!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Devotional Thought From Mark’s Gospel

And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.     Mark 2:19

                Why is Christmas such a joyous occasion? Why does society at large make a happy holiday out of the recognition of His birth, even though it does not value the theological and moral significance? Why do even the most seriously religious among us (church attenders, Bible readers, the God intoxicated, witnesses) make the observance of Christmas into high happy days?

                The one and only answer is because the Lord has come. The true God came. The Son of God is among us, and He described Himself as a bridegroom. When the bridegroom is around you never hear people say: "We don't need all these decorations;" "Having all this food is a waste;" or, "There’s too much dancing going on around here;" or, "Laughter is unseemly;" or… or… or…

                The very presence of the bridegroom brings joy, and changes the attitudes, whatever they may be, of his guests. The presence of the bridegroom speaks of abundant celebration. It is one of the best times that the wedding couple ever have in their whole lives, and their families and friends enjoy it with them.

                The Baby ( a.k.a. a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord ) is the bridegroom. So Christians should get happy and out do the world celebration by our Christmas joy. Christmas is one of the great portions of our message of good news. Let us, as it were, run with this message, as the amazed and exuberant shepherds ran through Bethlehem being town crier’s of God’s arrival.

                May your Christmas be merrier and merrier, brighter and brighter, and truer and truer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Devotional Thought From Matthew’s Gospel

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.     Matthew 22:29

                The American celebration of Christmas has a variety of expressions: ornamental decorated trees both outdoors and inside; a song about a boy and his drum; dreams of snowy Christmases; a feast of seven fishes; even an imaginary mythical Christmas personage, among them. All good fun.

                Now, personally, I like those things, but I know the real story of Christmas so I realize that these fun things are extraneous accretions to an accurate celebration of the actual event that is Christmas, and they are used by some to obscure the historical record of what happened in Bethlehem. If the non-Christian world, society at large, has its way people who don’t know the real story will think Christmas is a fantasy fun time full of festive foods, and freaky, friendly, flying, forest creatures. The message, to those who don’t know the story, in all of this is a message that Jesus gave to some of his ancient opponents on another subject: Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.

                If a person knows what God’s word teaches about the event we call Christmas, he/she/they will know the following realities of the meaning of Christmas:
                At Christ’s birth the prophecies of God given in the Bible were being fulfilled;
                The unusual star over Bethlehem brought people to the promised Messiah’s birthplace;
                The baby in the manger is the savior of the world;
                The baby is the Son of God given by God to the world because God loves us;
                The Son of God came to save His people, and all people, from their sins;
                As many as receive Him as savior become the children of God.

                The non-Bible believing world likes to think of elves, colored lights, and the joy of gift giving to family and friends (all good things) and call their form of Christmas magical. The Church, all the Christians of the world, would use the word miracle. We would say if you have to make a choice between the two choose miracle, because that’s what real Christmas is all about. If you’ve got the theology right then you can rightly divide the true from the cultural and enjoy both.

 If there were no lights, or trees, or children sharing their wish list with a red suited guy, or lots of fish, or holiday songs, or special homemade candies, or a national holiday, there would still be Christmas because God’s coming into the world, the miracle, is true now and forever. To sum Christmas up in one word, it is Emmanuel. Emmanuel means God with us.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Devotional Thought From Matthew

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.     Matthew 5:16

                Christmas lights are a joy to us all. The red, yellow, green, blue, white, and whatever color lights brightened the darkness of the world in the midst of winter cold. I really enjoy the Christmas lights. Red, and yellow, green, and white, they make this season bright, festive, and beautiful. Each single bulb, string of lights, or old-fashioned candle, contributes to the light that overcomes the darkness of the chilling night.

                Our society with its political correctness can wink and call it winter holiday, community decoration, or party time, but we all know those twinkling lights are a signal that the Lord has come, and because of him, Jesus (God incarnate), there is a good news light in this world.

                That’s the application of this word from Jesus to his followers here in the Sermon on the Mount that I want to make. Let your light (testimony, actions, worship, behavior) so shine, be a bright light in the darkness of this sinful world, in other words be a symbol of Christmas.  Be a little light, red, yellow, black and white, for God, be a sunbeam for Jesus, be a Christmas decoration.  Always let the whole world know the Lord has come, and salvation and joy are offered to all who will receive him.

                When the world winks and says “Happy Holidays,” wink back and say “Thank you for that Christmas greeting.”