You are not as Wise as You SHOULD Be! Here’s How to Change That

Do you think of yourself as wise? Do you know a lot of wise people? How can you tell? The dictionary says that being wise is “having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgment” (which makes me think of the old saying: “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from making bad decisions.”) Some would say that wisdom is just common sense, but a modern Proverb says, “the problem with common sense is that it’s not so common.”

As we head into a New Year, maybe acquiring some wisdom would help you with those resolutions. It might help in a bunch of other ways as well…

The Solomonic Secret

Solomon, regarded in his day as the wisest man who ever lived, put it this way: “Wisdom says: “Now therefore, my sons, hearken unto me; For blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” (Proverbs 8:32-34 ASV) Apparently the “wisest man ever” believed that anyone could be wise, and he even told us how to do it.

The secret to wisdom is to hear instruction with anticipation, and then to act upon that instruction. Think about applying it this way. Are you coachable? A coach draws up a game plan designed to maximize his own players’ skills and take advantage of the other team’s weaknesses. What if all the players on the football team, on their own, decided to do their own thing on every play? Even though the coach had a plan, and even though there was wisdom behind that plan, do you think that team would have any success?

God says that the ones who keep His ways and hear what He has to say are blessed. This verse implies that ALL of us can receive instruction, and that everyone can have an opportunity to be wise.

wise

Calling the Play Must Be Different Than Running the Play

Are you maximizing your opportunity? God has a plan for us, and He has even given us a playbook full of wisdom with the details of His plan. In the game of Life, however, many of us just do our own thing, freelancing on every play even though there is a plan in place with love and wisdom behind it. I guess it would be nice if God had a magic wand and just touched our heads so they were instantly filled with wisdom, but it doesn’t happen like that.

Solomon doesn’t say that we are gifted with wisdom all at once, in an instant. He says we can hear it, and we can watch daily at the gates, waiting expectantly to receive it. Who are you listening to that gives you wisdom? Where do you wait expectantly to receive it? There are lots of types of “wisdom” in this world, but Godly wisdom seems to be a rare commodity.

Take Inventory

Here’s an exercise. Keep track how much time you spend reading or listening to men’s opinions each day. Then compare it to how much time you spend hearing wise, God-inspired instruction. If you were honest, I’d bet you were surprised at the disparity between those different sources.

Do you consider yourself to be wise? If not, why not? According to Proverbs, God’s wisdom is available to anyone who wants it! James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” But here’s a clue: asking God indicates that you see Him as your provider, your authority. So, do that. Hearken to God. Ask Him for wisdom. Seek him out, listen to him, and keep His ways. Become wise and be wise.

Consider the Source

Wisdom offers gifts to all–the meek or proud, the great, or small;
Its treasure can be freely gained and all its wealth can be attained
By everyone, though strong or weak, by all who diligently seek.
There’s just one catch to carrying out this task:
You have to go to God, and you have to ask.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Gift that keeps on Giving: Better Than Jelly of the Month!

It’s that time of year that we leave Christmas behind, isn’t it? Gifts have been unwrapped (and exchanged), gift cards have been redeemed, and we are putting away Christmas lights and decorations until next year… Here’s the thing: don’t stop celebrating the season when the season is over!

Why Christmas?

When you think about it, for many of us Christmas was all about giving and opening gifts! It is a tradition that goes back to the gifts of the Magi, which were presented to Jesus as a young child sometime after he was born. Some folks relate it to Saturnalia, a pagan Roman festival which pre-dated the birth of Christ, and which was supplanted by the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Since people gave each other small gifts during that winter festival, the custom was appropriated by early Church Fathers. (Although some Christians today refuse to celebrate because of those early roots, but I say, why let the devil have all festivals? It’s ok to celebrate the birth of Christ and give gifts!) Which gift was your favorite this year?

gift

The Gifts of the Magi, and Some Others Worth Mentioning

We give each Holiday season to commemorate the actions of the Magi in Matthew 2:11: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Gifts are a wonderful part of our Christmas celebration. But as you start enjoying the presents you received on Christmas, remember that there are gifts, and there are GIFTS:

There is the gift of life. There is the gift of love. And then there’s this: “For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, KJV).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the GIFT of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV).

“But the free GIFT is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the GIFT by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded unto many.” (Romans 5:15, NIV)

“For God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, KJV)

It’s About Living

No matter where you are and no matter what your circumstances today, never forget that Christmas is not about toys or things. It’s about a new history being made. It’s about new life. And it’s about a new KIND of life. To me, eternal life is an attitude that not only transcends time and space but it begins here and now! I like to think it is what Gus McCrae meant in “Lonesome Dove”. He said, “It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you LIVE.”

gift

This new year, don’t limit Christmas gifts to a single day. Celebrate it all year long! Embrace life wherever you are. Live with an awareness of the gifts that matter. Don’t get so caught up in your new iPhone that you miss the greatest gift of all! Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Rhyme

Sing Hosanna, peace on earth! Celebrate the Savior’s birth!
As Angels sing, Rejoice with them! This baby, born in Bethlehem,
Made every earthly power shift, and offered us His matchless gift.
Give “Peace on earth” and spread “Good Cheer”! But tell me, if this isn’t clear:
Since Jesus showed that “God came near”, why celebrate just once a year?
Don’t take your faith from Christmas nights and pack it away with the Christmas lights!
In winter, summer, spring, and fall, open the greatest gift of all—
At home, abroad, at work or play—Celebrate Christmas every day!
Whenever you recall this rhyme: it’s Him, it’s you, it’s Christmas time!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Pontius Pilate: Maybe the Most Uneasy Retirement Ever…

The Man Who Washed His Hands

“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:24-26, NIV)

Pontius Pilate

A Dilemma For the Ages

I have always wondered about Pontius Pilate. He was a Roman governor in a hostile land, thrust into a situation that had no reasonable outcome. Matthew says that he marveled at Jesus’ lack of response, and that his wife had been greatly troubled about Jesus in a dream. She actually told him to have nothing to do with “that innocent man” (Matthew 27:19), but in the end he couldn’t avoid it. Pilate was the ultimate example of a man stuck between a rock and a hard place, a military man forced to make political decisions for unreasonable and hostile constituents.

He offered to release Jesus, said he found no fault in him, and ultimately washed his hands publicly of the whole messy affair. Pilate and his wife were both uneasy about this Galilean “King of the Jews”, and both of them expressed a desire to be rid of this call for judgment; yet even so, Pilate handed this innocent man over to be crucified in order to pacify the zealots who were calling for his death.

So, Then What Happened?

Do you think that in later years, once they moved back to Rome, they talked about Jesus, and wondered about who he was? Did they live long enough to keep up with events back in Jerusalem, to sense the magnitude of what they had seen and done? Surely the “King of the Jews” came up in their dinner time conversation, and perhaps Mrs. Pilate was able to say “I told you so!” every once in a while…

According to Josephus, Pilate was ordered back to Rome after viciously suppressing a Samaritan uprising about AD 36. Maybe he was just doing his job as governor, or perhaps he harbored some bitterness towards the Jews for the role they had forced him to play in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. In any case, he dealt harshly with the Samaritans and was sent home, either as a reward or a punishment. But it was clear that he needed a break from Judean politics.

What was “The Rest of the Story”?

There are a lot of characters in the Bible, and Pontius Pilate seems to be one of the most realistically portrayed. Too bad Matthew or Luke was not able to chronicle his later life after he returned to Rome. I have always wondered what he felt and thought about Jesus, what he ultimately knew and didn’t know…

And I have wondered if, during their troubled retirement years, Pilate and his wife ever found answers to the questions they must have had about Jesus, the Christ, the man whose kingdom was not of this world. Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” I wonder if he ever found the answer to that question, the question every single one of us must ask as we behold the man.

Pontius Pilate

In an assignment far from home, caught between the Jews and Rome,
As politics and eternity swirled in events that surely changed his world,
Pontius Pilate tried to choose, when any way he went, he’d lose…

Out in this remote command, a case he couldn’t understand,
Pilate tried to wash his hands of this Jewish King, this innocent man…
Events began he couldn’t halt—and so he said, “I find no fault!”
And when the Sanhedrin wouldn’t budge, Herod was called to be the judge;
But Herod only sent him back. So Pilate tried a different tack:
“Be careful here!” his wife had urged, so Pilate had the prisoner scourged,
And asked the crowd to give relief, but instead of the King, they chose a thief…

Perplexed and trying to find a plan, he brought Christ forth: “Behold the man!”
Hoping that he could try to buy some sympathy now; But “Crucify!”
Yes, “Crucify him!” reached his ears, a cry that he would hear for years,
And think about with angry tears as the mark of the darkest of careers…
See, Pilate didn’t know from old of the things the ancients had foretold,
of another man who said, “Behold!” as political strife around him swirled:
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes the sins of all the world!”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Mary Treasured Jesus in her Heart. God Treasures You the Same Way

Out of the several accounts of the life of Jesus, only Luke offers us this quick observation: Mary treasured Jesus. That’s a logical thing to say about how a mother would feel about her child, but it speaks volumes about Mary and Jesus. It also might speak volumes about YOU. After twelve-year-old Jesus had been left behind in Jerusalem and was found teaching in the temple, Luke offers us our only glimpse of his childhood and development:

The Good Son

“Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52 NIV)

It’s a little intriguing to think about Jesus as a boy, and we can speculate about what he must have been like. Comedians have always joked that it must have been tough being Jesus’ sibling, since you would always hear, “Why can’t you be like Jesus? HE behaves!”

treasured

In the Apocryphal gospel of Thomas the boy Jesus is depicted as performing some whimsical miracles, which is probably why that book stayed apocryphal and didn’t become part of the Canon. But in point of fact, not much is written about the boy Jesus, except for Luke’s anecdote about Jesus staying behind at the temple at age 12 while his parents headed back to Galilee. It doesn’t tell us everything, but even this brief account reveals a few things that are interesting to me.

Balance

Luke reminds us that Jesus grew in four ways: wisdom (mentally); stature (physically); in favor with God (spiritually); and in favor with man (socially). This well-rounded growth indicated a life balance that all of us should consider while making those New Year’s Resolutions. It also indicates that Jesus was developing into a young man who was preparing to fulfill his mission.

Jesus (at aged twelve) was obviously gifted as a teacher and amazed the scribes and rabbis in the temple. In his interaction with them and his parents, he seems to demonstrate a poise and maturity beyond his years; but most of his amazing qualities were kept fairly private.  Luke says that Mary “treasured all these things in her heart”, even if they weren’t vividly evident to others who were there.

If you are a mom or dad, aunt or uncle, or friend of the family, perhaps you have spent time around a toddler or a small child. Think of being amazed at their development. Think of being overwhelmed by little things they do, from imitating you to discovering something with wide-eyed wonder… When you have a toddler in the house, you don’t need to watch tv! All of the cuteness you can stand is right there in front of you!

treasured children

Heart Strings

What things have you observed in little ones and treasured in your heart? Mary knew all of those things about Jesus and she treasured them. But don’t miss this: since we are made in our Father’s image, it stands to reason that God feels the same way about us; He watches our development, he sees us grow from spiritual babes into spiritual toddlers, and he treasures us in his heart. Have you ever equated how your Heavenly Father feels about you with the way you cherish an infant, or laugh out loud at a toddler’s antics?

I bet He takes the same delight in you, and is just as interested in your growth and development. Your picture is in His wallet; your crude but well-meaning artwork is on His refrigerator. God loves us not just for who we are but also for who we will become as we trust Him to help us navigate our path in a complex and fallen world. Certainly He enjoys our growth the same way we love seeing our children and grandchildren grow.

Luke says that Jesus grew in four dimensions: mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. Like you, Jesus grew up in the real world. Like you, he was treasured, appreciated, and loved. That’s probably a good thing to remember as we head into the New Year. Treasure those things in your heart, and grow.

Treasured

Mary watched as Jesus grew, and marveled at the things he knew;
From the humble manger’s start, she treasured Jesus in her heart,
Like any mother’s heart would do. Did you know someone treasures you?
One who loves to watch you grow, desires to teach you all they know,
One who loves with all His might, and watches you with great delight!
He loves you now, and every minute; His wallet has your picture in it!
He adores your every move, and offers you a Father’s love.
By every way it can be measured, understand this: You. Are. Treasured

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Decisions, decisions: This Christmas Business was Tougher than you Think

Before and after Jesus was born, Joseph had some tough decisions to make. In our previous post we discussed the decision to flee from Bethlehem to go all the way to Egypt. Imagine Joseph and Mary in Egypt, away from friends and family, forced to become refugees in a strange land. Then this: “After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

“So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23 NIV)

More Than Meets the Eye

Joseph’s relationship with God was not limited to the pre-Advent announcement about his first son. Obviously, he had to deal with issues that were beyond the scope of most typical First-century Jewish husbands and fathers, and he had to make some tough decisions. He had to deal with 1) a bride who was pregnant before the wedding; 2) the messengers of God coming to him with directions; 3) a pretty dicey political situation, what with the local king trying to kill his son and all; and yeah, 4) he had to make some pretty difficult travel arrangements under adverse circumstances.

decisions

On top of all of that, he and Mary also had to decide where to live and how to raise the Son of God who had been placed under their care. There was no Century 21 office to advise them, and I’m sure buying a home was not easy in their circumstances. They still had to evaluate neighborhoods and make assessments about what was happening and where to settle geographically so that the Christ child would be safe.

Details Matter

I think it’s interesting that, even under the protection of the Most High, Joseph and Mary still had to make decisions about where to go; they still had to take action to be obedient. They had been warned of Herod’s treachery and had to get up at night and escape to Egypt, to live among strangers in a strange land. It doesn’t say they were told HOW to do those things. They were certainly vulnerable and in danger, but they trusted God and responded to His word. I’m sure that those weeks were lonely and fearful, and that there were moments of doubt and uncertainty for the young couple as they began their life together.

Perhaps there is something in their story for us. A walk with God is not a magical Union that takes place in spiritual realms; it is a journey through hard times in an uncertain world where bad things can happen. I think it’s instructive that Mary and Joseph 1) listened to God’s word to them; 2) made decisions based on what He said; and 3) demonstrated obedience to God by acting upon his instruction. You think maybe we could learn from that? If it worked for Joseph and Mary, maybe it would work for us.

The Honeymoon (Joseph’s View)

I hope these dreams are whose they say they are;
We’ve left our family, and we’ve traveled far
To live down here in Egypt. It’s been rough,
(As if this birth had not been hard enough!)
So now we have to take a different tack;
The angel says that we should travel back!
Judea isn’t safe; so, where to go?
I guess when we get closer, we will know…
But Mary is amazing. We will make it,
And if God has some more advice, we’ll take it.
We are strangers living in this land–
Something that I never would have planned–
But we have both obeyed the Lord’s command:
So in Him we will trust, and take our stand.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Christmas Untold: The REST of the Story of Fear, Flight and Faith

After you have celebrated the Nativity scene, considered the angels’ announcement, and are anticipating the birth of Jesus, it is time to think about what Christmas was all about for Mary and Joseph. Yes, there were the messengers who came, but there was more to come from his time in Bethlehem than the stable and the manger.
“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:12-15, NIV).

A Very Creepy Christmas

The Christmas story doesn’t end with the Nativity. It begins there. For Joseph and Mary, it meant a hasty departure under cover of darkness to a strange land. It meant hard travel in open country with a young mother and an infant whom Herod was seeking to kill…

Come to think of it, it had to be a scary trip, maybe the scariest road trip experience of all time. Yes, there was an aging and jealous king trying to eliminate a potential threat to his throne, but it wasn’t just Herod who wanted the baby dead. Paul reminded us in Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places…”

Christmas

It was not only Herod, but every dark power in this world had to be uneasy, sensing this sudden goodness which was now present on planet earth. Surely every evil force could feel a shudder of its own death knell, and stirred blindly and restlessly, reacting with vague disquiet against God’s work in the world. Against a creepier background than any horror film could conjure up, Joseph took his little family in the dead of night and set out for Egypt.

Spiritual War

Behind the holy family, Bethlehem was about to experience the slaughter of the innocents; before them lay a long and uncertain journey to Egypt. Satan has never been omniscient, or surely he would have known who this baby was in advance, and ended the Christmas story at the manger… But the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of evil.

Undoubtedly, throughout the millennia Satan had anticipating the arrival of a coming king, and was ready to do battle with God’s royal emissary and savior. Perhaps, like the Pharisees, he was looking for a majestic, powerful king who would come heralded in glory, ready to fight the Romans. After all, that was how power asserted itself in his domain, so the logical thing would be to sow corruption and evil wherever men wielded it.

Start At The Top

Satan certainly worked hard in the courts of both Judean kings and Roman emperors (and most royal houses throughout history), using ego and treachery to corrupt and contaminate almost everyone who attained a position of strength. Winston Churchill, who was a pretty astute chronicler of history, said “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The devil has been pretty effective at corrupting leaders (he’s still doing it today, even in our hallowed Republic), but Satan did not foresee God’s unusual plan. God chose weakness to confound strength. He heralded not a military kingdom but a spiritual one. Against all logic, He sent humility to oppose power. God chose a frail baby in all humility to end an evil empire based on selfishness and pride; and He sent Jesus to begin a new kingdom based on peace and love. And guess where it starts, the week after Christmas? Look no further than your own heart…

Just like the Holy family, you too are on a journey facing uncertainty and choices. There is a selfish, grasping evil that wants you to fail; yet there is a humble, loving Savior who wants you to succeed. As you consider Christmas and all that really happened around the birth of Christ, remember why he came and the person to whom it matters the most: YOU.

Christmas Mayhem

Forced to flee in the dead of night,
Joseph had disturbing dreams
Which warned him that they must take flight
From Herod’s mad and murderous schemes.
Commanded by his jealous word,
Assassins through their village crept,
And performed their duties undeterred
As mothers wailed and fathers wept.

But Herod’s minions missed the mark,
As Joseph took his wife and infant son
Traveling hard to safety in the dark:
Their long and dangerous journey had begun.
And every evil power on this earth
Was restless as it sensed this new-born king,
Uneasy since the announcement and the birth,
Uncertain of the changes it would bring.
The powers of darkness felt the child’s great good,
Felt the Spirit around him as it flowed,
And stirred to end this danger, if they could,
From the family alone, out on the open road…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

If Bethlehem Was on the Bayou… a Different Christmas

Imagine, if you will, that Bethlehem had been located on the bayou in Southern Louisiana. Let’s celebrate the birth of Jesus today the way it might have been

De Bayou was cold, and de weather was hard,
And de Hound dogs an’ animals lay in the yard;
De crickets was chirpin’, an’ de bullfrogs dey sing,
Never suspecting the birth of a king.
From a beat-up pirogue stepped old Joseph an’ Mary,
And she was so pregnant dat, Man, it was scary!
At ol’ Thibodeaux’s Inn Dey knock on de do’,
But he said, “Dey’s no room, not even on de flo’.”
They turned, disappointed, But Thibodeaux said:
Jes’ wait you a moment—you can sleep in de shed!”
So Mary an’ Joseph went roun’ to the back,
Where they made up a bed in ol’ Thibodeaux’s shack.

Now, out on the bayou, some fishermen sat,
When dey saw such a bright light, dey wondered where dey at!
For, high up above them at the top of the trees,
Dey saw such a sight, dat dey fall on dere knees!
Ol’ Gaston, he say, “Whew—boy! I must be dyin’!
For over the Bayou, dose Angels be flyin’!”
“Fear not!” Said de Angels, “For we just came to say
Dat Jesus the king will be born here today!

Go to Thibodeaux’s Inn, aroun’ to de back,
And you’ll find the baby, asleep in de shack.”
So those fishermen pulled in their nets an’ their bugs,
And put up their line, an’ put down their jugs,
An’ paddled on over towards Thibodeaux’s place,
Where they could encounter de King face to face.

Now, meanwhile, dis same night, on de far side of town,
The three Chutney sisters had just settled down.
Now, the oldest was Grace, and the youngest was Sue,
An’ Evangeline, she was de middle one, too!
They all settled down for a midwinter’s sleep,
An’ were driftin’ off down where de slumber is deep,
When an angel appeared, and said, “Get outta bed,
And shake all dose cobwebs right outta your head!
Go out to de yard, an’ look high an’ look far,
And search de night sky for a bright shining star.

Jus’ you follow dat star all de way across town,
An’ you’ll find a place where a baby lays down,
In the shack in the back of ol’ Thibodeaux’s Inn…
An’ dis baby will save us from all of our sin!
So get up! Get a move on! An’ Give God the glory;
Go honor dat baby! An’ tell men the story
Of the fact God is with us!” Then dose angels left, blazin’!
An’ then said her sisters an’ Grace: “That’s amazing!”

So the Chutney girls went out and followed the star,
till it led them downtown past Jerome’s grill & bar,
Till they came on to Thibodeaux’s , where dey saw the sight
Of the newborn king, who was just born dat night…
The fishermen came and had gathered around,
Just watchin’ the baby; no one made a sound,
Not even the houn’ dorgs who sat still & quiet:
Dis must be de king! Why, how could they deny it?

So up walked the Chutneys; in a straight line they filed
To the star that now rested right over the child;
Then Grace spoke up quietly: “I t’ink dat maybe
We ought to deliver our gifts to de baby.
We’re po’, but we brought out a couple of things,
That might help us worship the new king of kings.”

So Sue stepped on up, with a smile soft an’ sweet,
And she lay her best coat at the new baby’s feet.
She said, “Mary, I know that like me, you are broke,
So I hope you can use this as some kinda cloak,
That will give you some cover and keep you from harm,
And help you to keep our new king safe and warm.”

Evangeline came to de crib in de room,
And she said, “I have only my bestest perfume,
But I offer its fragrance, and hope it is able
To cover the smell of this musty old stable.”
And, finally, Grace said: “I feel sorry and sad
That we only can give him what little we had,
For I know that a king should have wealth—so I’m told,
And that Jesus deserves to be showered with gold.
So I give you this gift, and it makes me quite happy,
To give you dis watch that belonged to my pappy.”

As she lay the gold watch at the feet of the child,
Miss Chutney believed for a moment he smiled;
And the angels appeared, an’ were singing again:
“Let’s have peace on the earth, an’ Good will toward men!”
Gaston and his friends, they hitched up their pants,
and they grabbed all the Chutneys and’ started to dance!
Then they ran through the town, and they sounded dey horn,
And dey tol’ ev’ry body dat Jesus was born!

From den on, all the Chutneys and fishermen said
They could never forget what was put in dere head,
Dat a king would be born, an’ his work would begin,
That would save ever body from all of dere sin.
After the Chutneys and Gaston had came,
De t’ings on the Bayou could not be the same.
An’ dat was the very first Christmas dat day,
Which caused all the folks on the Bayou to say,
From then on, “Laissez les Bon temps rouler!”

Well, friend… What about you when you hear of dis story,
Do you know of dis child? Do you know of his glory?
Can you hear what the angels proclaim as they sing?
Do you bring all you have to the feet of the king?
May you follow de star; may its light draw you near,
And may Christmas live in you t’roughout the whole year:
As you gaze on the child: as you look on his face,
May you say with Gaston: “That’s amazing, Grace.”

Copyright ©1997 by Bo Jackson
All rights reserved

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Glorious Word of God Became a Mere Man

Here at Christmas time we celebrate the arrival a baby in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. Angels from heaven announced that his name was Immanuel, or “God With Us”. The Glorious Word, the Bible says, was made in the Likeness of Men… what does that mean? An eyewitness said, “The Word was made 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, KJV)

A Most Astounding Transaction

It was through His Word that God created all things (God said, “Let there be light.”). The Word, preexistent from the beginning, the creative force behind the universe, was made flesh. As Paul put it, Jesus “made himself of no reputation, took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…” (Phil 2:7).

And oh yeah, he was born like all men, tiny and fragile and vulnerable. He was helpless and hungry and had to be protected like any other baby. He cried, snuggled and nursed. The boy Jesus grew in wisdom and stature over time, in the manner of men. In so doing, he created a new and unthinkable paradigm for the Creator: He became part of his own creation.

In what way do you suppose God is most glorious? You might expect God to be cosmic and majestic and distant, but instead he used his humanity as a vessel to dwell among us, to share our sorrows, our hopes, our emotions, our experience. Jesus had a personality. He hung out with friends. He went to parties and out to dinner! (I think the television series “The Chosen” does a great job of portraying him in real life.) Jesus smiled, laughed and told stories around the campfire out by the lake. He wept. He taught and healed among us, and rebuked those who made a mockery of his Father’s intentions.

Define “Glorious”

Living in the midst of carnal, selfish men, he offered something we rarely see: he showed us that God is indeed glorious. He reflected wisdom and grace, and confounded people who expected him to be normal. It was not majestic physical glory or awesome splendor, it was God’s amazing glory transmitted in a smile or a Word. Jesus demonstrated heavenly glory in an everyday world. Have you had any glimpses of God’s glory lately?

We probably have some preconceived notions about glory that keep us from noticing it sometimes, or that cause us to miss it altogether. In Luke 2:9 the shepherds responded to heavenly glory much as any of us would. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Glory can be pretty overwhelming.

We probably most often think of it on an overwhelming cosmic scale. I know we see it in sunsets and mountaintop vistas, and when we gaze into the night skies, but it’s not often we see it literally in someone else. Take a minute to stop thinking of it in grandiose, majestic terms, and think of seeing it reflected in a person.

man glorious

Look Around…

When you think of God’s glorious grace, who do you think of? I know I think of my wife, Nancy, and the love and grace she has extended to me over the years; It is reflected in my children and grandchildren, who are to me living expressions of God’s love and hope for the future…I have seen it at church, moving chairs or rocking a baby in the nursery. I have seen it at Young Life camps, touching lives and offering glimpses of what’s to come. And I still see it in the Word of God, preserved for me in John’s marvelous narrative, reflected in Moses’ law, expounded upon in Paul’s amazing letters, and passionately expressed in David’s Psalms.

Have you looked into the Word of God lately and beheld his glory? Have you seen God’s glory reflected in a friend or family member? And by the way, did you notice something glorious this Christmas season among the Santa’s and the snowmen and all of the Christmas displays? You may have walked or driven right by it today! (HINT: it was tiny, and it was probably lying in a manger somewhere as Mary and Joseph hovered over it protectively…)

Glory

It’s more than what you’ve read, or heard.
Encounter this: the glorious Word,
The Bible, just not in a book,
But in a PERSON! Take a look
At all it says and you will see
Not Words, but personality.
It’s how he smiled, and where he walked,
What Jesus did, and how he talked;
It’s healing hands and promises kept,
It’s how he prayed, and when he wept…

The Word saw Adam’s fatal flaw,
The Word was Moses and the Law.
David praised the Word with song!
Paul presents Him, clear and strong,
The glorious word who came to earth
Disguised in a humble baby’s birth…
SO pay attention to this rhyme,
And look for Him this Christmastime.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Unbelievable: The Woman Who Believed In a Preposterous Message

Luke’s narrative about Mary’s conversation with Gabriel described her reaction to some unbelievable news. If you think about it, there is much to learn from Mary’s response to God’s messenger. (And BTW, the Greek word for angel is anggelos, or messenger—simply put, a courier who brings a message, or a word from someone else).

Put Yourself in Mary’s Shoes…

In Mary’s case, she was clearly being given direction from God, and like any of us she could have said, “No”. I guess it’s conceivable that she could have fought against it or rebelled against such a life-changing commission; but she didn’t. In fact, that option is always available to us, isn’t it? Perhaps YOU have heard a message from God yourself lately, or even read one on your own somewhere…Maybe even HERE, reading this: How did you react to it? Was it too unbelievable to believe? I know a lot of people find the virgin birth to be unbelievable. Mary wasn’t one of them.

unbelievable

A Quick Word

After she heard what Gabriel had to say, she said, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” His word was this: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33, NIV)

Basically, Gabriel brought a word from God, quoting the word of God about the Word of God, and Mary (and Joseph as well) had absolute faith in the message. In response, she affirmed it verbally, and then she lived it obediently. It may have seemed unbelievable on the surface, but Mary believed it and accepted it.

An Amazing String of Promises

Surprisingly, the first-born son was not going to be Bar-Joseph according to custom, but was to be given a name indicative of who he was (a big concession by Joseph, which lends credence to the unusual nature of the Angel’s announcement). Jesus is a shortened form of Joshua, derived from Jehoshuah, which in the Hebrew means “Jehovah is salvation.” Gabriel points to Isaiah 9:6-7, which says “unto us a son is born”, and refers to God’s promise of an eternal throne to David’s line in 2 Samuel 7:12-14.

As Mary listened to his message, she undoubtedly found comfort in the fact that this birth had been foretold…There are in fact over 400 references in the Old Testament that are prophesies connected to Jesus’ birth, life and death. (You can Google that!) They are like hundreds of threads woven in to the Old Testament out of all space and time to create a tapestry of hope, pointing towards Jesus of Nazareth. The authors (Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Zechariah) wrote independently and without any way of knowing the timing, the person, or the outcome of their books– but their words connected the dots between God’s covenant people and the promised Redeemer.

So You Don’t Believe It?

Let’s say you’re skeptical about that, or just don’t think all four hundred plus prophecies really apply… Maybe that seems unbelievable to you. Even if some of them are a bit of a stretch, or if some of them are hard to connect—let’s say we throw out half of them—wouldn’t you think that someone whose birth and life were foretold by a couple of hundred predictions from centuries before would justify some serious thought?

Those writers certainly didn’t know who Jesus was going to be, or when he would be born, but there were too many uncannily accurate prophecies about Jesus’ arrival to easily dismiss. From the Tribe of Judah. (Micah 5:2) From Jesse’s family (Isaiah 11:1) and David’s line (Jeremiah 23:5-6). Announced by a messenger (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). Preceded by a star (Numbers 24:17). Born of a Virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Called Immanuel (God with us) (Isaiah 7:14). Weeping in Ramah (Jeremiah 31:15). Flight to Egypt (Hosea 11:1). He would be worshipped and presented gifts by kings (Psalm 72:10).

Worth Looking Into

Consider this: there is NO other historical figure’s arrival (including Mohammed and Buddha) was foretold in such volume and detail, so far in advance. No. One. Since the angel was pretty specific in mentioning these OT quotes in his message to Mary, they at least bear some consideration relative to who Jesus was.

Ok, so why am I talking about the messenger, and the message to Mary? Because when Gabriel made his announcement to her, it was also a message to everyone who would come after. It was a message to me. And it was a message to you as well. It seems we all have the same choice before us that Mary had: we can believe the word of the messenger, and then live differently because of it; or we can dismiss it, and go on as if nothing had happened. I think something happened. If Gabriel’s word was fulfilled, as Mary hoped and affirmed, then it’s worth looking into.

The Angel and the Virgin

What Gabriel said to Mary must have scared her through and through;
As unbelievable as it seemed, the picture that he drew
Affected Mary’s very life! But she did what she needed to.
Well, what if Gabriel’s message, then, was also meant for YOU?
What about the prophecy and things that men foreknew?
Would it change anything if you believed that it was true?

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Coincidence Disguised as History. History Connected by Coincidence

Most casual observers might assess a seemingly random series of events and say, “Wow, That’s a Really Amazing Coincidence!” In fact, anyone looking at the birth of Jesus would have to admit there were some surprising coincidences that took place. I would submit that there is something more to it than that…

You Can Look It Up…

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” (Luke 2:1-4 NIV)

Joseph was from Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Under normal circumstances, Jesus should have been born there at home in Nazareth, a relatively sleepy little village in Galilee. But a taxation decree from Caesar Augustus forced Joseph to take Mary from Galilee to Bethlehem, and it was there Jesus was born. Coincidence? This fulfilled a prediction written over 700 years before by the prophet Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV).

Facts…

Look at a couple of things about these verses: First, the birth of Jesus was a REAL event that took place in a REAL location in the midst of REAL historical events. There was a census (you can look it up), and by coincidence Quirinius was actually a mid-level governor in Judea. (Scholars place his time of service and the Roman census both at around 6 AD, which helps to date the birth of Christ around that time.)

Second, because Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered, Jesus was born away from his childhood home. Since Jesus grew up in Nazareth, the Pharisees did not associate him later on with Bethlehem, and it was one of the things that bothered them about Jesus and kept them from seeing him as the Messiah. He wasn’t from the religious and cultural center of Jerusalem, and it diminished his importance in their eyes. In John 7:41-42 they argued about it: “But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?”

A Case of Mistaken Nativity

coincidence

The Pharisees (like Herod’s elders who consulted the Magi in Matthew 2) knew that the Messiah would come from the city of David, and their tribal knowledge presumed that Jesus grew up in Nazareth. What they didn’t realize was that, perhaps by coincidence, out of all the places in all of Judea, Joseph had to leave Galilee and travel with his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, and the timing had to be such that she delivered not at home in Nazareth but while staying briefly in the city of David.

Pretty remarkable–a coincidence, you might say– that a Roman decree moved Hebrew people around so that Joseph and Mary ended up in Bethlehem, the exact birthplace of the Messiah, which fulfilled Micah’s prediction from over 700 years before…

Besides that particular prophecy about his birth, the Hebrew Scriptures also predicted that Christ would: (1) be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); (2) be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); (3) ride the foal of a donkey into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9); (4) be descended from David (Isaiah 9:7 and Jeremiah 23:5); (5) be “lifted up” and “marred beyond recognition” (Isaiah 52:13-14); (6) be crucified, as depicted in Psalm 22. Those are but a few of the Hebrew scriptures written hundreds of years before Jesus, predicting some of the things that would happen to or around him…

Remarkable? Yes. Coincidence? No.

Coincidence

You don’t think He created earth; you can’t believe the Virgin birth.
His parables and works were fine, but you don’t see him as divine.
Perhaps if you could look and see the Hebrew Scriptures’ prophecy,
You’d come to find it all makes sense: if it’s just ONE coincidence,
Then you could push him out of mind, or call me intellectually blind!

But search the Scriptures, and you’ll find
A dozen prophecies aligned with things that Christ would do.
So was he God? Or was it just a coincidence or two?
A dozen? No, I think I undershot,
since actually there really are a LOT–
Just take that Bible down from off the shelf,
And do some research. Look it up yourself!
Those prophecies from hundreds of years before;
I’ve quoted a few, but there are many more.
To many folks it doesn’t make much sense;
But I don’t think it was coincidence!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Mary Had to Make a Choice; But Really, Doesn’t Everybody?

Mary was called by God to perform a unique mission. On the surface she did the logical thing and seemed to make the obvious choice; So, a great question is, why Doesn’t Everybody Do it?

It Seems Obvious NOW

The last woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy is the most obvious one: “and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” (Matthew 1:16, NIV). Mary lived a remarkable life, and was certainly a remarkable young woman. A ton of legend and adulation has grown up around her. With all of the Da Vinci code supposition and mystery, Mary stands as possibly the most revered woman in history. Based on a literal Gospel vantage point, there is not all that much material in the Bible about her. We can read the Gospels to get to know her, but she seems to be a fairly normal, if somewhat more devout girl of her times.

Mary and the Angel

Living in the Real World

She was chosen for a mission that rearranged her life in the most uncomfortable ways possible—pregnant and possibly disgraced on the cusp of her nuptials, targeted by gossips and disapproving eyes, forced to go live with her cousin in the hill country…
Not everything was easy and glorious for Mary. Even years later, the Pharisees, arguing with Jesus about his paternity, sneered, “WE are not illegitimate children!” (John 8:41). Apparently, Mary’s predicament of being pregnant outside of marriage was public knowledge, and the story followed Jesus into adulthood.

It may be hard to see from this side of history, on this side of the veneration and adulation of Mary, but at one time she was a simple village girl from Nazareth who was visited by a messenger who had a word from God. She responded fearfully and a bit skeptically (you can read about it in Luke 1), but after weighing her options and resolving her questions, said to Gabriel: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

Closer to Home Than You Think

It strikes me that this answer probably contains pretty good clues about attitude for all of us when life throws us a curve ball. First, remember who God is and who we are. Mary calls herself “the Lord’s servant”, meaning that when she calls God, “Lord”, she means it. He is above her, and she is willing and ready to put him first, even in some crazy circumstances. If you think about it, this is a good attitude for us to have when life gives us unexpected difficulties.

Obviously, it helped Mary to have an angel deliver God’s Word, but we aren’t off the hook on that one, since we have the Word at our disposal 24/7. We can whine, “God didn’t give me a message!”—but maybe it’s been available to us all along and we just haven’t read it. Has God sent you a messenger lately? Are you listening?

The Answer All of us Could Give

Second, she is obedient to God. No protest, no argument. She asked a puzzled question about logistics, but that’s it. Mark Lowry sang and shared in our worship service, and humorously suggested that Mary might have asked Gabriel, “Do you think you might stop by my parents’ room on the way out and maybe let them know?”

But she said, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (I love the King James, “Be it unto me according to Thy Word.”) I’d suggest that if all of us took TODAY, and prayed this little prayer–“May your Word to me be fulfilled”– (and meant it), we’d have a different outlook, and a different kind of day. And if we did it EVERY day, we’d have a different kind of life. Mary certainly lived differently: not by magic, or even by angelic proclamation, but by her obedience and faith. This Christmas day, you are faced with the same opportunity Mary had. Those are the tools. Here is your day.

The Choice

Christmas is a happy time, so full of joy and giving!
It is a time of hope, reminding us that life’s worth living!
We all enjoy the lovely sights of mistletoe and Christmas lights,
And gathering with family to eat our Christmas-time delights.
We watch our favorite Christmas movie features on TV,
And marvel at the stack of presents underneath the tree!
But tell, me as you think of Christmas (maybe with some snow!),
And shop for presents dodging Christmas traffic as you go,
Would there be a Santa, would there be some mistletoe?
What would our world be like today if Mary had just said, “No”?

If Mary said no, this world would be a totally different place,
Without our Christmas giving, and with far less hope and grace.
If she said no, our world would hold more shame and more disgrace.
Well, what if YOU said “No” to God? What difference would there be?
What grace and hope would future generations fail to see?
Which priceless gifts would languish under history’s Christmas tree?
Mary changed the world by saying “Yes” to God’s request;
But what if God called all of us, and ALL of us said yes?
You know how God used Mary’s “yes”; I guess you know the rest…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Real People, Real Christmas: Real Intrigue and Danger.

There are some interesting details about the real events behind Christmas. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him…” (Matthew 2:1-3, NIV)

So, Why Were People Disturbed?

The Magi, who studied the heavens and knew something about the arrival of a new king of the Jews, came “from the east” to find out about this new-born king… Naturally they went first to the current king in Jerusalem, Herod the Great. He was a king who had an impressive resume as an architect and builder. But he was a cruel man who was known for levying high taxes and pushing to complete his projects. He built a fabulous temple (in addition fortresses, the Port of Caesarea, and many other impressive architectural achievements). When the Magi arrived, Herod was in perhaps the last year of his reign, dying from gonorrhea and possibly cancer.

Herod is known for his impressive accomplishments as a builder, and his engineering and architectural accomplishments can still be seen today at Caesarea, Masada, and Jerusalem. They are why he still known as “Herod the Great”.

real fortress

He had a long, tumultuous reign filled with treachery and murder. Herod not only executed his wife, Miriamne, but her mother Alexandra as well. He had two of his brother-in-laws killed, and also executed his own sons Alexander and Aristobulus. He was so jealous of his throne that at one point it prompted Augustus to say, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son” (a reference to the fact that the pig had a better chance for survival than a son, since Herod’s household didn’t eat pork).

Unintended Consequences

Matthew’s description of Herod’s reaction to the Magi is intriguing. While there is much to explore about the Magi, it is also interesting to take a closer look at Herod’s role in the nativity. After all, he was at least partly responsible for sending them to Jesus. “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:7-8)

Herod is a somewhat forgotten part of this nativity, but he certainly played a significant role in the birth and early life of Jesus. Matthew says in verse 3 that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, “Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” It might make sense that Herod was troubled—he guarded his throne zealously, and certainly did not enjoy having other aspiring kings around. But why was all Jerusalem troubled with him?

More Than Meets the Eye

Dr. Duane Edward Spencer taught that Herod was a cruel ruler who was not exactly beloved in Jerusalem. The fact that the city was disturbed along with him at the approach of these men suggested a somewhat larger and more capable party than three men on camels. More likely it was a troop of famed Persian cavalry. It makes sense, since a few men carrying valuable gifts would have been easy prey for robbers. Besides, three guys on camels probably wouldn’t make a city tremble.

This is a real story about real people. It makes sense that men of this stature would not travel without protection. It is also reasonable that Herod and people in Jerusalem would all have their own interpretation of events. Herod tried to twist the Magi to his own ends, asking them to go find this newborn king so he could “worship him”. Like many real politicians before and since, Herod was lying about his true intent. He was a paranoid ruler who was constantly involved in intrigue and questionable choices. (And, if you look at his devious and murderous intentions here, a Herod played a role in both Jesus’ birth and in his death.)

More Than One Herod

Herod the Great’s son, Herod Antipas, carried on the family tradition of making poor choices by marrying his half-brother’s wife, Herodias. She was the one whose daughter danced provocatively for him and then demanded the head of John the Baptist. Definitely soap opera material… Herod Antipas is the same guy who wanted Jesus to perform for him, and who sent him back to Pilate after a very cursory “trial”. But, back at the time of Jesus’ birth, Herod the Great sent the Magi to Bethlehem to find Jesus and report back to him. When they didn’t bring him a report, he reacted by doing something that followed his reputation down the corridors of time.

real danger

He killed all the male children in Bethlehem two years of age and under. While he missed Jesus, his cruelty touched many other lives. His action has always been known as the “Slaughter of the Innocents.” While scholars have not found a direct reference to this act outside of the Bible, it is certainly in keeping with Herod’s character. He was a man so jealous of his throne that he killed his own mother-in-law, two sons, and his wife Miriamne, just to mention a few.

Killing little boys affected so few people in such an obscure village that historians did not find it newsworthy at the time. Or, they may have revised Herod’s biography to make him look a little better. Executing a few little boys would not have bothered Herod in the least, and he didn’t live long thereafter…) Real people. Real events. Know your history: Jesus was really actually part of it.

Real History. Real Talk.

The Holidays are twinkling lights
And carolers on snowy nights,
Our Christmas movies on TV and presents underneath the tree.
We think of things we love so much–
The Christmas tree, the gifts and such,
And little children’s shining eyes with every Santa Claus surprise!
But don’t forget, when both your stockings and your hearts are filled,
The boys in Bethlehem, and the evil king who had them killed.
Traditions are nice, and so are the things we feel–
But don’t forget. Yeah, Christmas just got real.

To buy my book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread