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The Christmas Lamb

Christmas  2017: Santa Claus, electronic yard reindeers, snowmen, cards, parties, decorated trees, wrapping paper, and bows.  Christmas the beginning: Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus, a manger, bright star, angelic host, shepherds, sheep, and the good news.

Luke chapter 2, the familiar recounting of the Christmas story, like that of a well-rehearsed children’s play, all the characters are in place, the declaring angels hit their queue perfectly, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” LOVE IT!  There is one small phrase prior in the narrative I’d like to recognize, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” (v. 8)   Scholars believe, due to the proximity to Jerusalem THESE lambs were the temple lambs. Potentially, THESE shepherds were caring for lambs destined for sacrifice! The religious custom (requirement) of the day was to raise or purchase a lamb, take it to the priests and have it offered as a substitutionary sacrifice for atoning forgiveness of their sins.

Interesting, the shepherds were the first to hear the glorious news, not chief priests or princes or even the learned men of Jerusalem, no dignitaries were found in the bunch. They not only were the first to hear the birth announcement, but also the first to see the child.  Would it be a far reach to state that these shepherds knew the divine importance of keeping watch over their flocks? After all, news of the Messiahs coming would not be “good news of a great joy” (v. 10) unless they were seeking Him and waiting for Him.  Could it be that God sent the angel to the people that would get it?  “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” declares the angel.  (vs 10,11) Good news indeed!

The Lamb.

Remember the conversation Abraham had with Isaac as they climbed the mountain? Abraham’s response was so very prophetic, “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “But where is the lamb… Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb…” (Genesis 22:7-8)

Fast forward, this recorded of John the Baptist, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) About 3 years following John’s statement of Jesus, it is Passover, Jesus, found innocently hanging on the cross. Onlookers watch as His blood drips from His beaten, nail-pierced body.  Johns words echoing, “Behold! The Lamb of God!”

Later, as we follow the story of God, the angels again declare, yet this time, (Let’s all stand…) Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing … be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13)

This Christmas as we consider the Nativity scene, may we attempt to grasp the full message of the birth of Jesus. In the stable, the King,  the lil lamb, not eating from the manger, but IN the manger, our substitutionary sacrifice for atoning forgiveness of OUR sins. However, we did not purchase Him, He purchased us! (Head bowed) Nowhere in scripture are we told, suggested or asked to remember Jesus’ birth.  We are told to remember His death. (The Last Supper: “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”- Luke 22:19) His birth is tied to His death. Christmas leads to Easter. (Hands raised!)

Where is the lamb?  Behold the Lamb.  Worthy is the Lamb.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

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God, Our Awe Maker

Three-year-old Kallie was nestled safely in her Uncles arms as they waited to see Santa at the tree lighting ceremony.  Uncle Brian quietly stepped out of line and worked his way to the window of Santa’s house. Pointing and in a whispered tone, “There he is.”  GASP!  She saw him, she saw Santa! She was so excited she began to shake and squirm.  In her extreme joy and not knowing how to express her amazement, she boldly placed both hands on her uncle’s face and kissed his cheek with everything within her.  She … was … thrilled!

What is it for us that cause us such thrill?  Could it be a favorable outcome to a ball game, an unexpected bonus check that has just been handed to us, or driving down a street with a beautiful array of Christmas lighting up the night sky? Thrilling!

How about God and God stuff, does that thrill us?  Does HE thrill us?  Psalm 92:4 is attributed to David as he wrote, “You thrill me, LORD, with all You have done for me! I sing for joy because of what You have done.” (emphasis mine) Some translations use happy, rejoice and glad, yet those alone don’t seem to magnify what David was attempting to proclaim.  Pause for a brief moment and think about David.  As a young lad, he left the hills of his father’s fields, to the courtyards of Saul’s mansion, to the victories of battle, to his reigning years as King.  We can’t deny his many failures, yet, regardless, he knew – he thanked – he praised.  He was in AWE of his God.

The word thrill is samah (saw-mock) a Hebrew verb meaning extreme joy, but it doesn’t stop there!  This joy causes the lighting up of the eyes, spontaneous feeling of jubilance, a feeling so strong that it finds expression in some external act.  Scholars describe samah is not meant to be kept to one’s self, it is meant to be shared!  So David penned, “You thrill me LORD!” for all to read.  Remember Miriam, Moses’ sister, as the Israelites, step onto dry land and all the Egyptian drowning chaos behind them took the tambourine and led all the women as they played and danced, singing to the Lord. (Exodus 15)  THAT is samah, extreme joy!   I feel compelled to ask, “Do we allow, or even invite God to thrill us, to be our Awe Maker?”

Spurgeon so eloquently shares, “If we are unbelieving, it is not Gods fault, for He goes out of His way to teach us faith—and sometimes He even gives what we have no right to ask, what we have no reason to expect. We are so weak, so ignorant, and so prone to unbelief that He will do anything to create, sustain and strengthen our faith in Him!”  Awe Maker.

May we not belittle God and God stuff in any way, but invite and embrace Him as our Awe Maker. Oh please do – go out of Your way God to open our eyes, unstop our ears, show us Your hand!  In doing so, we will share with others.  A seemingly silly, simple example, but it paints the best picture, just like Kallies uncle …  THERE –  HE – IS!

“You thrill me Lord!

In Him, DeDe

(“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

 


Myrrh, Not a White Elephant Gift

Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift giving.  We are in the season of gift hunting, in search of that PERFECT gift, we may not have anything in mind, but waiting for something to jump off the shelf and literally wrap itself because it is SOOOO perfect.

Regardless of what makes it home with us from the mall, all of us have gifts to offer. God-given gifts that He asks that we share with one another. Whether it is the gift of serving, or the gift of encouragement, or perhaps the gift of a listening ear.  Or hospitality, providing an extra place at the dinner table. My gift is being a student of the Word. I dig around in the geeky stuff, summarize and share it with others. No gift is too small, or insignificant.

Often we read the Christmas story and highlight the most spectacular parts: Singing angels, “Fear Not” statements, the Star of Bethlehem, and yes the dingy manger. YET, there are some quiet and seem less significant items to be had in the excitement. Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. They are packing, dividing up the supplies list, then they come to the gift inventory, gold is given to the first, then frankincense handed to another, oh yeah, the myrrh is last. How would you like to be handed the myrrh, and picture yourself bowing low, head to the floor while you offer M-Y-R-R-H (said with an Eeyore deep tone) to the King of Kings! You may think “Dude, why do I have to carry the white elephant gift???”   White elephant it is not, one among the triune gifts that are of great value.  Gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. Have we ever really thought WHAT is myrrh?

The divine significance of myrrh: An ingredient used in the anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests.  (Exodus 30:22-23) Myrrh/Myron:  Perfumed oil/ointment poured over Jesus’ feet.  (Luke 7:36-50)  It was used as one of the spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.  (John 19:39-40)

Picture now, the Christ child, perhaps two in age or younger, curly dark hair, possibly pudgy cheeks. At His feet, men of wisdom and honor, place gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. The anointing oil of the TABERNACLE and THE Priest. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) The same perfumed oil poured on His feet as a grown man, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. The oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death.

Myrrh, HOW PROPHETIC.  A new appreciation for the gift?

May we too bow low, offer even what we may think insignificant. Gifts given to Jesus and in His name have great value, regardless of how silly we may see it, or how small they may appear. An encouraged heart, a feed soul, a person no longer lonely.

Christmas gift giving! Follow the Magi’s example – be prophetic.  The gift that keeps on giving.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” –  Hebrews 10:24)


Check THIS out

This is an amazing lil video, creatively spitting out depth and insight.  Peace. Enjoy.

 


YOU Are the Reason for the Season – Christmas Gospel

These last couple of days I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’  It fits well as a lapel pin, even hangs proudly as an ornament on our trees, and splattered in gold across our Christmas cards.  I like it!  The message is clear and points to Jesus!

Yet… I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know… I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher, I watch how they walk, talk, their mannerisms, and their facial expressions (there is much entertainment in it… nough said).  The other day as I was out and about shopping I watched their faces, looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me …‘THEY are the reason for the season!’

Simply said, the season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS, His birth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Jesus came to earth; He lived to die, resurrected and sits on the right side of the Father …  He did ALL this for US!  WE are the ‘whosoever’.  WE are the reason for the season, the reason Jesus came! YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group HUG!) He came for YOU!

Even with all the self-interest, self-emersion and all the “I” focus today, I challenge us this Christmas to look into the eyes of those around us, consider THEM, and be you focused. What a great opening line to the gospel, said with heartfelt humility as we gently lean forward in the checkout stand at Walmart, “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season?” (Take note not to be said with ‘Game Show’ hype).   Their confused response, “WHAT!?!” Then quickly tell them about Jesus as not to hold up the line behind us, “Yup, the Bible says God sent His Son Jesus as a gift, and whosoever believes and accepts the gift, well they are saved by God’s grace and get all His eternal life stuff… and YOU my new friend (look at their name tag and call them by name) fall under the ‘whosoever.‘   As we pay our bill, offering a hardy, ‘Merry Christmas.’   Holy Spirit can take it from there.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Blessed Christmas to you and yours, YOU are the reason for the season.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

 


Giving Presence in the Present

Christmas and gift giving, standing among all the stuff, the noise and the chaos, the potential frustration.  Christmas has become somewhat of a plummeting oneself into the art of either grab and go at the store or park yourself in front of the computer and let your fingers do the shopping.  My goal this year is to slow’r down. Taking time to smell the cinnamon infused pinecones, watch yet another Hallmark Christmas movie and listen to Elvis (my mom’s favorite, I turn it up so she can hear it up there with Jesus) and Bing Crosby crooning the oldies.

Christmas to me is so very sentimental.  I gave my heart to Jesus on December 21, 1979, at the age of 16 ½ (the half counted back then) while sitting on the white carpeted floor of the Associate Pastors living room. (I had been visiting the lil country church) his wife Brenda lovingly, openly, full of acceptance telling me about Jesus and His love for me and what it meant to be a Jesus follower.  That day will always render special to me, that moment and the moments following as I walked home, just down the street.  As I walked, the Christmas lit houses took on a new glow, the plastic baby Jesus in the front yard demanding my attention and respect.  That baby Jesus was no longer just yard deco, but now my Lord!  Not just a baby, but a King! I stopped, pausing to take it all in, I was in the moment!  Thirty-eight years later I remember the moment, I cherish the moment.  The moment changed me.

How often are we somewhere else when we are with people or in circumstances or perhaps even in church?  Our bodies may be present but by golly, our minds are full of grocery list writing, or a prior situation rehearsing over and over in our head, or while someone is talking to us we are busy formulating our response.  What did we miss?

Be in the moment.

In Exodus (the theology of Exodus is Presence) Exodus 24, God called Moses up the mountain, “The LORD said to Moses, “”Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” (v12, emphasis mine, NKJV)  For 40 days Moses was there.  Eight chapters worth of divine instruction was given.  Moses was there.  Many translators interpret God telling Moses to ‘stay there’ or ‘wait there.’  Yet a 19th-century rabbi wrote from a different perspective which I adore.  He exclaims that there are times we go to a place and not actually being there, going on to say that we can exert ourselves getting to a destination, yet when we arrive, our thoughts remain at the original point of departure.  The Rabbi imagined God was telling Moses not only come up the mountain but be fully there, with complete attention, concentration – leaving all behind. *

May we too be there, this holiday season and every day, be in the moment, giving complete attention and concentration to those we are with and in the moment of where we are.  It is a gift we give to others & ourselves when we are giving presence in the present, a moment in which we may be changed. And may we pay close attention and not allow our mind to wander when we read God’s word, we don’t want to miss anything!

For Pastors Ben & Brenda, ‘Thank you.’  That lil country corner church became my home church for two years following, then they sent me out to the big world to attend bible college, study God.  Now a bible teacher.  Thank you for being in the moment.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*Lois Tverberg, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus (BakerBooks Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2018)


Show Me

When I begin reading or studying the Bible, it is always my goal to start with a heartfelt prayer “Show me!”  It isn’t a stance of boldly throwing my hands on my hips – full of attitude, said with pierced lips, demanding God “PROVE IT!”  It is said in humble request.  Open my eyes and show me, show me Your attributes, show me Your stuff, I want to see YOU!

The author of Psalm 119, so poetically wrote, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.”  (v18)  Open my eyes.  What beautiful imagery, the word used conveys uncover, to reveal in such a way as to expose.  Picture yourself reading, then… Holy Spirit gently removes the shaded-glossed over glasses and there, there it is …His word.  The ink on the page fully exposed as He intended it, you see it, understand it, humbled by it.  I’m sure you’ve experienced this, reading along and “WOW!”  Where did that come from, never noticing that before?  Show me.

Moses requests that God show him His glory (Exodus 33:18) here the request is slightly different, Moses is asking that he sees with intent to learn. Show me that I may know more of You God. I want to learn of Your holiness, Your uniqueness, I want more of You.  Show me.  Elisha asked God to show his servant all the heavenly support positioned around them. (2 Kings 6)  The word is paqah, (paw-kawck) opening the servant’s eyes to see what was not noticed before, to see with wisdom, understanding, and reality. Elisha asked the servant see God stuff!

Job in conflicted conversation inquires of God, “Show me my offense and my sin.” (13:23) Show me.  Job actually speaks in intimate terms, (yada) he wants God to cause him to KNOW – experience what God sees and feels when Job falls short, not hitting the God target.   God point and put Your finger where I lack,   (a potential painful request).  King David requests with the same:  “I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8) He continues on with ‘teach me… lead me … for I am Your servant.’

May we too ask of God, “Show me.”  Open our eyes that we see and understand Your word, show us, teach us more of You.  May we see with eyes of wisdom, understanding, and reality. And yes, we ask – show us where we lack and fall short. May we not stop here, as we quietly close the Book,  show us.  Show us in Your word, and now as we get up and head out, graciously show us ‘YOU’ in life.  (He is so faithful!)

God says, “Call on Me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious, things which you still do not know about.” – Jeremiah 33:3

Show me.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)