Away In A Manger/ Feeding At The Manger

MangerThe Manger Luke 2:7,12, Romans 3:23-25a, 1 John 1:8-10

There is no prophetic or   mystical reason why Jesus was laid in a manger… it was simply the most   practical place in the stable for Mary to have placed Him.  It was the right size, the right height, the most comfortable and the safest place for Jesus to be.  So if we can say anything about the manger it is simply that it was practical.  It made since.  It was the obvious solution.  Like responding to the gospel in our station of life… It makes since.  It is the obvious solution.

Whatever your station in life, rather it be a stable, a palace, or anything in-between, “all have sinned” and therefore “fall short” of the  creator’s  intent for living. Yet Jesus has provided the redemption that we need to be reconciled to God. That is forgiveness through His shed blood.  “By His wounds we are healed”(1 Peter 2:24). He died for our sins so that we might have forgiveness and abundant life (John 10:10). Coming to Jesus is the only practical solution for our condition.  Just as a master’s animal feeds at the manager from the food that he provided, so must we feed on Christ who has been provided for us.  It is the only practical solution for our condition which has been provided for our “abundant life.”

Eat from the manger or you will become malnourished and die!

Pigs for slaughter and Beasts of Burden Galatians 6:7-8

There is a vast difference between a manger that feeds a beast of burden (horses, oxen, cows, mules) and a feeding trough that services pigs. The manger is filled with more nourishing food that fuels an animal for a useful purpose while the slop that pigs eat are only provided to fatten them up for the slaughter.  A manger is high and lifted up while a trough is low to the earth. A manger is filled with nourishment while a trough is filled with slop! We are what we eat! “A man reaps what he sows”. Just as the farmer was used in Paul’s illustration of sowing and reaping, we can adapt the lesson for eating as well: Whoever eats to please their flesh will reap destruction. Whoever eats to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  God has provided Jesus for our nourishment and usefulness as His created beings.  We can choose to fill ourselves with the slop of this world, but it will destroy us and the purpose that we were created for.  Don’t allow the  enemy to slaughter you…                                                           Rise up and eat from the manger!

Real Food and Drink John 6:25-27.35, 51b, 53-57

In this passage Jesus is being swarmed by crowds of people whom He had just miraculously fed the day before (the feeding of the 5000 John 6:1-13). They had sailed to the other side of the lake to find Him. Jesus realized that they were looking for Him only to get more free food.  He told them not to work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which only He could provide. Jesus then went on to describe how He was both real food    and drink. 

So what did Jesus mean by “eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man” (verse 53)? Jesus is speaking metaphorically and spiritually. To “eat” Jesus is to satisfy ones spiritual hunger. To “drink” Jesus’ blood is to satisfy ones spiritual thirst and to acknowledge His redemptive act as a blood sacrifice for our sins on the cross.  The words for “whoever feeds” in the original Greek (ho trōgōn) are telling. It doesn’t mean just to eat, but to chew slowly in a drawn-out   fashion, as one would chew gum or dissolve a lollipop. By using this word Jesus says we must feed on him continuously.  That is to “remain” in Him as He said in John 15:5.  If we continually “feed on” or “remain” in Jesus we will bear much fruit (accomplish much) but apart from Him we can do nothing.

Do you see that “feeding on Jesus” is a personal and daily act of faith? No one can eat or drink for you. In the same manner, no one can believe for you, but if you will believe and come to Jesus He will never cast      you aside.

 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:37

  In essence, that babe in a manger is to remind us that we need to feed on Jesus. It is He who nourishes us for true and abundant life.

 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28

Away In A Manger (The Shepherd’s Call)

ShepherdsThe Calling of the Shepherds Luke 2:8-20

Shepherds…they smelled like sheep. They slept on the ground. They didn’t live in major cities. Their jobs made them little or no money. They came from the lower rung of society. So why was heaven’s glory revealed to a bunch of nobodies in the middle of nowhere?   Of all the people to whom God could have revealed this startling birth, why choose shepherds?  With all the power brokers in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome, why choose the countryside outside of the insignificant and tiny village of Bethlehem? Here is why…

Bethlehem shepherds were the shepherds who raised the sheep offered as sacrifices at Passover. So even in Jesus’ birth, we are reminded of Jesus’ sacrificial death. Isaiah 53:7

Abraham, Moses, and David were all shepherds and God made great promises to them about deliverance and a Messiah. God showed that He honors his promises by announcing the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, to shepherds first.

The image of a shepherd is the image Jesus chooses to use for his example of a leader — one who pastors, who shepherds his sheep and is even willing to lay down his life for his sheep. John 10:11

The Good Shepherd Psalm 23:1-6,Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34:11-15, John 10:1-16

These reasons are important, but I believe that there is a more important reason that God announced Jesus’ birth first to shepherds. God is the Chief Shepherd among us and is often identified as the loving, tender Shepherd of his people. Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. God wants us to know that he knows us and cares for us and will never abandon us. So when the glory of Jesus’ birth is announced, it is announced to shepherds to remind us of our Good Shepherd and how much God loves us. Shepherds were despised and unwanted. They lived far from the busy lives of most people of their day. They were not important — not personally, politically, or economically. If God chose to reveal his glory first to them, then God is making an important statement to each one of us personally, that is: Jesus came for me! I am not too low, too insignificant, too unimportant, too powerless, too forgotten, too sinful, or too anything for God to love me, search for me, find me, and want to bring me home.  (excerpts above from Pastor John MacArthur)

 Gods Call to Mankind: “Don’t Be Terrified!” Luke 2: 9,14, Hebrews 10;26-27, John 1:12

In the glorious call to the shepherds there is both a wonderful proclamation and a warning for all of mankind. We read in the gospel account that the shepherds were “terrified” when they first saw the messengers that came to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth that night. Why were they terrified? Beyond the sudden appearances of angelic beings, they were likely terrified because they were in the presence of a Holy God and they were sinful men.  An unrepentant sinful man or woman should be terrified of a Holy God. The destiny for such a person is judgment and eternal hell, but the angels proclaimed to the shepherds that “peace” comes to those on whom God’s favor rests.  God’s favor “rests” on His  children.  His children are “those who receive Him, to those who believe in His name”.

For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:30-31 NASB

The “Good News” of the angels is that we do not need to be terrified in the presence of the most Holy God! Jesus came to earth to die for our sin and in so doing makes a way for us to be reconciled to God by our acknowledgement and appreciation of this amazing gift. He did not come to condemn the world but to offer the world forgiveness and peace. There are, of course, many who reject Christ.  They should be terrified to do so for the day is coming where they shall be condemned.

 “Spread the word”, “treasure up these things” and “Ponder them in Your Heart” Luke 2:17-19

The end of Luke’s “Christmas” narrative reminds us about how we as believers should respond to such wonderful news. The Shepherds “spread the word” and so should we In both teaching: Matthew 28:19-20 and by our actions: Matthew 5:14-16. Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”.  This gift of Jesus is incomparable in its importance.  Ponder (think upon) it often.  Treasure the love that God has for you.  For it is “great joy for all the people” who will receive this gift of love: 

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests!” Amen

Away In A Manger (Room In The Stable)

Christmas Myths   Luke 2:4-7
If you have been around here long enough you will have heard me talk about the many myths of the “Christian Christmas”. There is of course first of all the wrong date. Biblically speaking, Jesus was born in August or September and not chilly December. Mary was a 14 or 15 year old girl when she delivered and not a woman, she did not remain a virgin after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:24-25, Mark 6:3), and there were no kings at the stable, they came later to “the house” (Matthew 2:11). Since I want my congregation to be biblically factual and not traditionally fanatical, here is yet another Christmas myth:
Reading the old King James Version has confused the story of the inn a bit and the church has confounded it entirely. The original Greek of Luke’s text actually says, “she wrapped him in cloth and laid him in a “manger” (literal: corn crib), as there was no room in the “guest room”. That’s right, Luke does not say there was no room in the inn. Luke has a different Greek word for inn (pandeion), which he uses in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:34-35). The word he uses here (kataluma) is the very word he uses to describe the room in which Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples (Luke 22:11) — the guest room of a house.

It is likely that Mary and Joseph stayed with relatives or friends of the family. Archaeology does not show evidence that there was an inn in Bethlehem but it does support the fact that the houses had caves behind them where they kept their prized animals. The guest room was in the front of the house, the animal shelter in the back, and Joseph and Mary had come too late to get the guest room, so the relatives or family friends did the best they could do by putting them in the back of the house. More than a story about a mean old Inn Keeper that had no room for Jesus, it is a story about a kind house guest that made accommodations for the late arriving guests and likely attended them in the quietest place in the house. After all, the babe was wrapped in cloths (Luke 2:7). Someone had to have given them to the couple.

Accommodations?  Revelation 3:19-20, Matthew 28:18-20, John 14:23-27
Now that we have the facts right, what lesson can we learn from this story? Yes, It is still about you and I making room for Jesus in our home (life). The fact is that Jesus was not turned away. His birth was accommodated at their house even though it was full and very busy. It is even likely that Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus came into that very same home and stayed for awhile. It is most likely the “house” that the Magi came to see Jesus at (Matthew 2:10) on a later date.

Do you accommodate Jesus in your busy life? He wants you to make room. When you allow Jesus entrance into your life He comes to change things (Revelation 3:19-20). He comes in love but He comes to reprove and discipline. He wants us to repent of sin and then He wants us to assist Him in His work and mission on this earth (Matthew 28:18-20). If we love Jesus we will obey His teaching as God moves into our life (John 14:23-27). If you make room for Jesus in your life then He promises to send His Holy Spirit who will teach you all things and remind you of all that He has said. He will give you peace that the world is not able to provide.

Do you want peace in this uncertain world? Then make room for Jesus.

Flip Side   Romans 14:11-12
Now that I’ve bailed the “inn keeper” (Guest room keeper) out and given the story a positive twist, let me flip it back again! Did he give Jesus the best room in his house?  Yes, the man did accommodate Jesus, but truth be told, if he really knew that the King of the universe had knocked on his door wouldn’t he have cleared that guest room?

How about you…what kind of room do you give Jesus in your life. Does He get your best or your sloppy seconds. Do you house Him in the forefront of your life or do you keep Him in the backyard? Does He have your living room or do you keep Him in the closet? Is He your honored guest or have you invited Him to live in your home and to take every liberty that He desires in your life?

The one who once was born in a backyard and laid away in a manger will one day descend from the clouds for every eye to see (Revelation 1:7-8). The one who has gently asked every human to open the door of their hearts to Him will one day blast open the locked doors with His brilliant light. Every knee will bow, every tongue will acknowledge God, and everyone will give an account of their actions before Him.

Do you want to open the door of your life to Jesus, or do you want the locks blown off of your door one day?
Make room for Jesus…In fact give Him the whole house! Amen

Home Grown Terrorists

Yesterday itTerrorists was Paris, France and today it is San Bernardino, California,USA.  In both cases radical Muslim home grown terrorists wiped out totally innocent people. My most sincere condolences to all the families and friends of those lost in these demonic attacks. I must say, that as these ruthless killings come closer towards my home and my loved ones my outrage increases. It is the pervasive liberal mindset and political correctness that has infiltrated America (and France) with a growing number of these home grown terrorists.

By “Home” I mean the five French nationals and the American citizen who were were instrumental in these attacks. By “grown” I refer to the way in which we have allowed our children to feed upon the “junk” values of the world at the exclusion of the Judaeo- Christian principals on which our nation was founded.  France has long since prided itself on being a “secular state”.  America is following close behind.  President Obama made clear his intentions in his speech on June 28, 2006 (as delivered): “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers”.

We have allowed the ingredients of our nation to be compromised and have become a soup of self-indulgence and experimentation. We have ignored the “master chef” to whom we once pledged our allegiance and have now become drunk on the poison rhetoric that is disguised as personal freedom, tolerance and political correctness.  When our values are so undefined and unprotected is it any wonder that our children would look towards others and possibly embrace them?

The desire for pride and purpose, the unifying passion of belonging to something growing and bigger than yourself, and the absolute boundaries of law and allegiance-absent a God of absolute truth and love, equal terrorists.  In this case they unite under the banner of the caliphate of radical Islam which we have allowed to grow in our own backyards.  When the American banner is so washed out that it stands for nothing what can we expect?   Sadly, I predict many more such attacks organized by our own wayward children unless we as a nation repent and return to that which once made us blessed and strong.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Away In A Manger (Coincidental Calling?)

The Calling of Mary and Joseph   Luke 2:1-7, Micah 5:2

Some might say “what a coincidence” this or that worked out the way that it did.  Was it a coincidence or is it God working things together in your life?  There was certainly no    coincidence in the timing of the census forced upon the world and Mary’s due date. “The prophecy in Micah, which was written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus came true the night Jesus was born in that stable. It eliminates all other cities and towns throughout the world as a place in which the Messiah would be born. Since there were two locations known as Bethlehem at the time of Micah’s writing, the addition of “Ephrathah” is significant. It specifies the Bethlehem in Judah, the portion of Israel in which the capital, Jerusalem, was located. Bethlehem was considered “little,” or insignificant, among the cities of Judah, yet would serve as the birthplace of this future ruler. The prophecy     narrows the possibilities to one tiny village, and throughout the span of the past 27 centuries, since the time of the prophet Micah, Bethlehem is credited as being the birthplace for the only person who is widely accepted as being the Messiah, by people throughout the world, and that person is Jesus Christ.”

Here are some other “coincidences” regarding Bethlehem:

  • Bethlehem in Hebrew means “House of Bread” — Jesus declared Himself “The Bread of Life” John 6:35
  • Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David, most Hebrew kings were born in Jerusalem — David was king of the Jews/ Jesus was called “King of the Jews” Mark 15:2

What appeared to be mere coincidence in Mary and Joseph’s was in reality a plan of God.  How about the “coincidences” in your life?

Coincidences and the Bible Romans 8:28

The word coincidence is used only once in the New Testament, and it was by Jesus Himself in the Parable of the Good SamaritanIn Luke 10:31, Jesus said, “And by a coincidence a certain priest was going down in that way, and having seen him, he passed over on the opposite side.” The word coincidence is translated from the Greek word synkyrian, which is a combination of two words: sun and kurios. Sun means “together with,” and kurious  means “supreme in authority.” So a biblical definition of coincidence would be “what occurs together by God’s providential arrangement of circumstances.”

 What appears to us as random chance is in fact overseen by a sovereign God who knows the number of hairs on every head (Luke 12:7). Jesus said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s notice (Matthew 10:29). In Isaiah 46:9–11, God states unequivocally that He is in charge of everything: “I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.” When we consider life events, we tend to classify them as “important” or “unimportant.” Many people have no problem believing that God is in charge of the “big things” but assume that such a big God would not trouble Himself with the seemingly miniscule events of our everyday lives. However, that understanding is colored by our human limitations and not supported by Scripture. For God, there are no unimportant events. He does not need to conserve His strength because His power is limitless. His attention is never divided. If the Lord God tracks every sparrow then nothing is too small for His attention. He is often called “the Almighty” (Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; Job 13:3), a name denoting unrestricted power and absolute dominion. Citing coincidence is how we humans explain unexpected events and surprise meetings. But just because we are taken by surprise does not mean that God is. Scripture is clear that God allows sinful humans to make mistakes and reap the consequences of those   mistakes, but only a sovereign God could also promise that He will make “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). In ways known only to God, He takes even our mistakes and unplanned events and weaves them together to fulfill His purposes.

Gods Plan and You Proverbs 19:21, Proverbs 16:33

In Old Testament times, God often used the Urim and Thummin, pieces of the high priest’s ephod, to help give guidance and instruction (Leviticus 8:8; 1 Samuel 30:7–8). In the New Testament, we see the apostles trusting God’s sovereignty when they cast lots to choose a new disciple to replace Judas (Acts 1:26). These means of communication were really insignificant.  It was God who was guiding. He can use the most insignificant people (Mary & Joseph), city (Bethlehem) or event (census) for His purposes. God does not seem to allow for “coincidence.” The administration of the universe is not based on chance. The Bible says that God’s purposes will prevail and that He is in control of even the most      random event (Proverbs 19:21). Proverbs 16:33 says, “every decision is from the LORD.” What may seem insignificant to us may be in fact a result of God’s omniscient power    working on our behalf to accomplish His will in our lives. Let Him work in Yours!