Seeing Jesus at Christmas – A Life Changing Announcement

Luke 2:11 – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

We hear more announcements during our lifetime than we can count.  From school to sporting events to commercials to phone calls, announcements are a part of our lives.  Some of them make us happy, some of them make us sad, and many of them don’t affect us at all.  In fact there are few announcements in life that are truly life changing.  Yet consider the announcements about Jesus:

For unto you is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord

And you shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins

And this shall be a sign to you,  the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son.

Immanuel is born: God is with us

For unto us a child is born,  unto us a son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulders and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father,  Mighty God and the Prince of Peace

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

He is not here, He is risen.

Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

These are earth shaking, life changing,  eternally lasting announcements,  for they proclaim the good news of the Gospel that says to us, you can know the Savior.  You can be forgiven of your sins,  you can have a relationship with Almighty God because He has taken your sins away.  You can be reconciled to God through Jesus, the living King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

You can personally know Him as the Wonderful Counselor,  the Everlasting Father, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace.  That is the power of the announcements about Jesus.  He truly is the greatest gift ever given.   A gift that we celebrate not just at Christmas but each and every day of our lives.  To God be the glory!

Espresso and the Gospel

Romans 8:13 – “For if you live according to the flesh you will die,  but if you put to death the deeds of the flesh through the Spirit you will live. ”

My wife gave me an espresso machine for Christmas and because I had been so good she gave it to me early. In reality she probably gave it to me early because she was afraid I would spend all of our money going to coffee shops supporting my espresso addiction.

Now instead of having to drive and get a cup I can prepare it right in the comfort of home.   Making espresso is not like making coffee however, it is more than just put the coffee in the filter and hit the switch.  Making espresso is a process, some would say an art form.  To make it properly you have to grind the beans,  not to fine or the espresso will not have any creama when you brew it and not to coarse or it will be bitter.  After grinding you weigh out the grounds and put them into the filter, them you have to tamp the grounds.   Tamping is a process in which pressure is applied to the grounds to pack them into the filter.   If to much pressure is used, the espresso will again have no creama and if not enough pressure is applied the shot will have a sour,  bitter taste.   It is a difficult process to master but it’s worth it.

Every morning I am working on the process, I am learning,  I am trying to perfect the art of the cup.  Its not easy,  but nothing worthwhile ever is.  Making espresso takes discipline and focus and as I thought about that I realized a wonderful,  rich truth: following Jesus takes those things as well.

It is a process, we should be learning every day.  We should be studying,  we should be praying,  we should be relying on Him as He perfects the process within us.

It takes discipline because cas we follow Jesus in this world we are going against the grain, and living differently than society.  It takes discipline to do as Paul says in Romans 8:13 and “put to death the desires of the flesh. ” After all we are sinners by nature so our flesh cries out for sin. It takes discipline to pray when the noise of the world swirls around and it takes discipline to read the Bible when so many distractions abound.  It takes discipline and focus.  Beyond that it takes the grace of God.  Paul says we have to put to death the deeds of the flesh,  “by the Spirit”, which means we can’t do it ourselves we need God, the Holy Spirit’s help.

Following Jesus takes discipline and  focus.  It takes the Spirit’s help and guidance and grace.  It is a process and sometimes a difficult one but it is worth it.  It is worth it to live like Jesus and to become what He wants us to be.  To God be the glory.

Seeing Jesus at Christmas – The King of the World

Seeing Jesus at Christmas – “The King of the World”

 

Isaiah 9:6 – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 

“I’m the king of the world,” uttered Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie Titanic.  He wasn’t but at that moment, he felt as if he was.  He was on a luxury cruise liner, with a girl that he loved, nothing could have been more perfect, at least for the next few hours.  We all know how the story ended, the fantasy that he was living out was over, his hopes had sank, and in fact his life was gone.  It was a tragic movie, but it illustrates a point, we may believe that we are the kings of the world, but in reality we are not.  When we think we are king of the world we are on our way to disaster.

 

Herod thought he was the king of the world, 2000 years ago.  In fact his nickname was the “king of the Jews”, so imagine his surprise when some travelers came to him and asked, “where is he who is born king of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east and we have come to worship him.”  Herod was utterly dismayed and perhaps shocked.  Whatever emotions he felt at that moment, they quickly turned to anger and to rage.  His next thought was, I too need to find this person of whom they speak, not to worship him, but to kill him.  His rage burned within him so much that when he found out how long they had been following the star he ordered all the children that age and younger to be killed.  He wanted the threat removed, no one was going to take his kingdom.

 

When I hear his story, I can’t help but to shake my head in disbelief.  He was that paranoid, that fearful, that ruthless, that cunning.  He was heartless enough to kill innocent children.  It is simply unbelievable to me.  But it shouldn’t be.  It shouldn’t surprise me that Herod would take these drastic measures, after all we don’t like anyone that threatens our kingdom do we?

 

We like to pretend that we too are the kings of the world, and at the very least we believe that we are the kings of our own lives.  We believe that so much that whenever anyone tells us any different there is something within us that rebels.  No, we want to shout, we are the king.  We are the boss of our own lives and no one can tell us any different.

 

Jesus however does tell us different.  He lets us know that we aren’t in charge.  We may think we are but we aren’t.  Herod thought he was when he told the wise men, “go and search for the child, then come and tell me where he is, so that I too may go and worship him.”  They will come back, he thought, I’m the boss, I’m the king, they will do what I say.  “And being warned in a dream NOT to return to Herod, they went home another way (Matthew 2:12).”  He thought he was in control, but he wasn’t.  We think we are in control, but we aren’t.

 

People want to believe that they are the kings of their own kingdom.  Don’t tell me how to live, I’m the king, I can do what I want.  Don’t tell me my action is sinful, and if you do, my response, “don’t judge me.”  It is the way of the world today. 

 

Jesus however tells us that we aren’t the king.  In fact he tells us something worse than that, we are sinners in need of a Savior.  We need Him, after all He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.  We need Him, the one who is Emmanuel, God is with us.  We need Him, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

 

We want to be the king, but He reminds us that we aren’t.  We are sinners and He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  We want to believe we are in control.  We aren’t.  He is the one who has created all things and who holds all things together (Colossians 1).

 

The world says, I’m on the throne.  Jesus says, there is only one God.  Two opposing world views clash.  Jesus told us it would happen. “He is destined to cause the rise and fall of many”, and “He is the rock that makes men stumble.”  He also tells us that we are either for Him or against Him.  In other words we either keep living our lives as if we are the kings of the world, OR we repent of our sins and place our faith in Him.  When we do that we are saying I’m not the king, but Jesus I know you are, and I’m going to trust you and your ways. 

 

People like to pretend that they are king.  So they want all mention of Jesus and His ways removed from society.  Herod wanted the same thing 2000 years earlier.  He failed, and those who want Jesus removed today will fail as well.  He is the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  We may pretend that we are, but we aren’t.  We may throw back our arms and scream, “I’m the king of the world.” Or at the very least we may smile in the mirror and think, “I’m the king of my life.”  We aren’t.  Believing that we are however will always lead us to disaster.  It did the character in Titanic, and it did Herod, who died a horrible death.  Does that mean if we don’t submit to Jesus our lives will come to a horrific end? No, not at all, at least not on this earth.  It does mean however that one day we will inherit a place called hell.  A place of torment and a place that is very, very real.   A place for those who believe that they are the kings of the world. 

 

We aren’t the kings.  The real King of Kings is named Jesus, and amazingly He came to this earth and lived a perfect life, then He died a horrific death on a cross.  Why? Because He took on my sins and your sins, so that we can be forgiven and so that we could be declared righteous.  He died so that we might live.  The Bible says, “God made Him who knew no sin, to become sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Make no mistake about it, we aren’t kings we are sinners, but the King came and died so that we could be forgiven, so that we could become His children, so that we could become His heirs, so that we could be called righteous.  He did that because He loves us that much.  What a Savior, what a King! To God be the glory!

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 61 – Drowning

Psalm 61:1-2 – “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;  from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”

David is drowning, not literally but figuratively.  He is drowning in the problems and the troubles and the situations of life.  David was a king and he was drowning.  Since we aren’t literally kings we probably aren’t faced with the same kinds of difficulties and problems that he was.  We don’t have to make the same types of decisions nor deal with the same types of problems yet we deal with problems and decisions none the less.  There is a lot about David that we may not be able to identify with, after all he was the king but when he talks about problems and drowning in those problems we fully understand him.  We are familiar with problems and we too may feel as if we are drowning as they wash over us and hit us with their power and their might.

In the midst of David’s problems, most like Absalom’s rebellion, David passionately and desperately cried out,”lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”  In other words I’m drowning and I’m helpless, reach down, rescue me and lead me on to dry land.  Bring me to a safe rock, a rock that is a place of security, a place out of the water and the waves.  Bring me to a place where I’m no longer drowning. “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”  It is a desperate cry of a drowning person.  A cry of save me and deliver me. 

It is a similar cry to that of the disciples when they felt like they were literally going to drown and perish.  The storm was raging and they were on a boat being tossed to and fro on the waves.  Many of those disciples were experienced fishermen but this storm was so fierce that they were feeling hopeless.  Things had gotten so bad so quickly for them that they didn’t even know where Jesus was.  He was resting and presumably sleeping right through the storm.   They quickly and desperately roused Him from His nap however, “Lord don’t you care, we are going to die, we are going to drown, can’t you do something?”  There’s is also a prayer of save me or “lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” 

What did Jesus do? He simply rose up and calmed the storm.  He simply showed them that regardless of the storm the rock that you need is Him.  Jesus is the rock that is higher than we are.

Higher in power
     In love
     In wisdom
     In purpose
     In love
     In all things. 

He truly is our rock.  The rock that is both higher than we will ever be, but that is also with us in the midst of it all.  He is our ever present rock.  That is the good news of Christmas,  Emmanuel is born: God is with us.  He is the ever present, always with us rock that is infinitely higher than we are.  So we run to Him, we cling to Him, we trust Him, and we stake our very lives on Him.  Resting in His grace and knowing that He is the one who leads us to Himself.  He is the one who is the rock and who leads us to the rock that is higher than we are. It’s all about Him and His grace.  To God be the glory!

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 60 – Self Reliance is Futile and Fatal

Psalm 60:11 – “Oh, grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!”

I came across a term as I was reading tonight that I had never heard before, “mirror face.”  The author’s premise was that we all have a face that we put on when we look in the mirror.  It may be a look with your chin angled down, or with your chin up.  It may be that your mirror face is a slight smile or perhaps a pursing your lips together.  Your mirror face may be pouty or jovial or you may put on a tough guy look. 

Our “mirror faces” are different but we all have them, and we use them as our measuring stick if you will to see how we are looking that day when we look in the mirror.  After all not only do we want to put our best foot forward but we want to put our best face forward to.  We want others to see us in our best light. So we put on our “mirror faces” and we check, or we put on what one person calls our “church face”, where we smile and pretend that everything is ok.  Many times we even put on our “church faces” in the midst of disaster and family arguments.  Why? Because we want others to see us at our best and to think good of us. 

So we check ourselves with our “mirror face” and we put on our “church face” or we smile and “put on a happy face” (we tell children to do this), even whe  we arent happy.  We want others to see us at our best.We even want to see ourselves at our best.  We want to pretend that everything is great and good and wonderful,  whether it is or not.  Yet the Psalmist reminds us here that no matter how good we pretend to be, we cannot save ourselves.   That is why he says, “for vain is the salvation of man.”  He is talking about facing a great foe, a great enemy and in his hopelessness he realizes that he can’t save himself.  He is helpless and he needs a Savior. 

We may put up a good front, we may greet the world with a perfect facade, but in reality we too are hopeless aren’t we? Our goodness will never be good enough.  It can’t be, God is 100% holy and righteous and we are not.  Because of that we cannot save ourselves.   We are in a hopeless estate, that is without Jesus.  He is the one who comes to us and saves us.  He is the One that we need, not a mirror face assuring us that we are ok.  Not a church face, putting our best foot forward and tripping and falling, but am honest face that says as David did, “vain is the salvation of man.”  We cannot save oursleves, it is vain, a waste of time to even attempt it.  Yet we are given a Savior, in fact that was Jesus’ birth announcement,  “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”  Jesus is that Savior given to us.  We can’t save ourselves, but Jesus can.  He is “mighty to save” and it is “He who saves us and not we ourselves. ” Jesus is our rock and our salvation.   To God be the glory!

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 58 – No More Hell to Pay

Psalm 58:10 – “The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne the great Scottish pastor of the 1800s said this, ” As I was walking in the fields yesterday, that thought came with overwhelming power into my mind, that every one I preached to would soon stand before the judgment-seat, and be sent either to heaven or hell. Therefore, brethren, I must warn you, I must tell you about hell.”  His passion is evident, he knows that hell is a real place and because of that he has a calling to warn people about that place.

I will freely admit as I write these words that I wish hell was not real.  I wish there was not a place called hell and I know I’m not alone in my wishing for in reality most of us feel the exact same way.  But hell is real.  It is a real place and a place we really don’t want to go. 

Jesus warned us about hell on numerous occasions and in fact He talked more about it than He did about heaven,  Why? At least partly because we need to see the reality and the significance of what He delivered us from.  Listen to some of the things He says concerning that place: ” ‘Whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire’ (Matthew)

“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell” (Matthew 23:33). “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41).

“The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 13:49, 50).”

“He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

These are hard words but words that we need to hear: hell is very real and the only was to avoid that place is to repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus for salvation.

We talk about going through “hell on earth” and we sometimes even make light of that place.  Make no mistake about it however our worst day here would be infinitely greater than our best day in hell.  That reality should startle us, it should wake us, it should alert because again hell is a real place.   A place of judgement prepared the Bible says for “the devil and his angels ”  It is a place not prepared for people but a place where people end up because of sin and because they are unwilling to repent.

David talked about the reality of hell in Psalm 58 when he said in verse 11, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”  What he is saying is judgement is coming and the only way for that day to be a day of reward is to be righteous,  if you are not there will be hell to pay.  In that light our problem becomes clear we are not righteous,  we are sinful so we become bound for a place that was prepared for the devil and his angels.   It is a sobering picture.   At least until Jesus enters in.  He is the warrior King who rescues His children from the clutches of sin and Satan and pulls them from the fires of hell.

David shows us that as well when he writes in verse 10, “The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.”  These are strange words but in the ancient world bathing your feet in someone’s blood was a way of expressing victory.  What David is saying then is that Jesus the righteous one has won the victory.   He has bathed His feet in the blood of the enemy and because of that He holds the keys to death and hell.  He is the reigning king of kings and Lord of Lords and as such He has won the victory.  Because of that we too can be victorious!  How?  We are “more than conquerors through Him who loves us” and “we shall overcome by the blood of the Lamb.”  We are victorious even over death and hell because of God’s great love for us that we see most evidentally through the blood of the Lamb.  Through Jesus we have no more hell to pay.  To God be the glory!

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 57 – The Desolation of Fear

Psalm 57:7 -“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!”

Every Christmas season there are a couple of blockbuster movie releases and this season appears to be no different,  with probably the most anticipated release being The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  I will admit that it is a movie that my family is looking forward to.  There is one scene in the previews that is gripping in its intensity as it shows the Hobbit, hiding in a cave as a dragon peers in.  You know the Hobbit gets away but it makes you want to see how exactly the escape was accomplished.

David’s story in Psalm 57 was in fact very similar to that scene out of the secong Hobbit movie.  He isn’t being pursued by a dragon and hiding in a cave for safety, but he is being pursued by King Saul and about 3000 of his men who have the sole purpose of snuffing out David’s life.  David is in a fearful place.  God has called him to be king but Saul is unwilling to give up his throne and instead decides to murder David to protect his title. 

In Psalm 57, David is on the run and he has to be frightened.  Listen to what he says as he describes his advancing enemy, “My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.”  Make no mistake about it, these are intensely frightening times for David, yet even then he trusts God. David’s fear is real, his agony is real, his situation is real, he could very well lose his life.  But his faith is also real so even with the fear and the uncertainty he has peace.
In fact he says in verse 7, “my heart is steadfast”. That’s an extremely powerful declaration isn’t it?  Made even more powerful by his circumstances.  He has what everybody wants,  he has peace and the amazing thing about it is he has peace even when there are 3000 men and the king of the country trying to kill him.  Where does his peace come from?  It comes from God Himself who gives David peace regardless of the situation. It comes from trusting that God is in sovereign control even when circumstances seem out of control.  When we trust in God’s sovereignty and power,  and we know that because God is sovereign that there is nothing in our lives that He didn’t either cause or allow then we can be steadfast even when the situations of life give us no reason to be.

Trusting in God’s sovereignty gives us a sweet sense of peace even in our darkest times.  That shouldn’t surprise us though because Jesus told us that as we trust He would leave His peace with us.  And not only that but you see Him modeling that trust when He prayed in the Garden,  “not my will but yours be done.”  In other words I am simply trusting you, and that is how we should live our lives simply trusting God.  For when we do that we are given the gift of “steadfast hearts.”  Then we can truly live effective lives for the kingdom as we live for His glory!