Life after Christmas

I’ve been thinking about Mary and Joseph “the-day-after”. The whole scene at the manger has always intrigued me, what with total strangers showing up to celebrate, only to leave and tell everyone in town about it. So what about the days after? Well, Matthew tells us they presented Jesus for circumcision (as the Law required) and then went on their way. Think about what came next when they got “back to the house”; cleaning up, Joseph catching up at work, diaper changing, 2am feedings, all the stuff we call “life”. Except for some interesting guys showing up from the East, life was normal. I mean here they were nurturing God Himself in the flesh and life was just, well, boring. There were no shepherds knocking on the door, the wise men were heading back home and the neighbors were still gossiping about the timeline of marriage vs. Jesus’ birth. Here’s what I’m learning from it:

  • God’s plan was at work while they did the “regular stuff” – As they got home and settled in, the Wise Men were on their journey (unlike most nativity scenes they came to the house, not the stable-Matt. 2). Perhaps along with the obvious of glorifying God by their visit, the expensive gifts provided funds for the not-yet-planned journey to Egypt (Matt. 2). Isn’t that just like God to have things working for our good without us even knowing? (Romans 8:28)
  • Their testimony was faithfulness not fame – From everything we read in the Gospels, Joseph and Mary were identified for their faithful hearts, not skill-sets and that’s what they went back to…a quiet life of faithfulness. In a day when people of all descriptions are placed on pedestals, it’s easy to miss the powerful value of a heart that’s faithful to the Lord. From Jesus’ teaching, to Paul’s letters and the Revelation, we see an emphasis on faithfulness.

So as we move-on from the joy of Christmas Day, back to the “normal” stuff, think about Mary and Joseph. Let’s take the excitement of the time and let it fuel us into the New Year as we carry joy to the world!

Does it Really Matter? The Essentials: Part 4-Who is Jesus?

Asking “Who is Jesus?” on the street in most cities would rarely produce a clear consensus. No other name in history equals His influence, but there are still various opinions of Christ. It’s interesting how little that’s changed in 2,000 years. The crowds following Jesus didn’t have a clear answer either. Asking them the same question would probably have gone something like this:

“Uh, excuse me sir, who do you think this teacher named Jesus is?” “Well, I’m not really sure, but people are saying He’s some kind of new prophet or something. Some even describe seeing miracles, but I think they’re exaggerating.”

As a matter of fact, the scripture demonstrates it:

13When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 16:13-17 NKJV

Everyone around Palestine was forming opinions. From political savior to back-from-the-dead prophet; public sentiment varied and was subject to change (remember how the crowd went from shouting “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!” within a week’s time?). So, who is Jesus…really? Let’s consider:

I. Jesus as Historical – Is there evidence for Christ other than the Bible? Yes, there are actually other historical sources referencing Him.

  • Roman Sources-Tacitus (Roman Historian), Suetonius (Secretary to Emperor Hadrian), Pliny the Younger (Roman Administrator), Emperor Trajan, and Emperor Hadrian all mention Christ directly and/or His followers.
  • Jewish Sources-Talmudic writings describe Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry and how it led to execution. Historian Flavius Josephus’ specifically mentions Jesus.

II. Jesus as Divine – Was He really God?

  • The Bible clearly declares in John 1:1-5 that Jesus was part of the Godhead (Trinity) before creation, active in creation, and here in the flesh ministering.
  • Jesus claimed He was Messiah (John 4:26, 5:39), claimed He was God (John 10:30, 14:9), claimed only He had the power over His life (John 10:17-18), and even went so far as to reference Himself by the personal holy name of God (John 8:58).

III. Jesus as Human – Was He really Human?

  • The Bible describes Jesus being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born after a natural 9 month time period. He even had to grow up (Luke 2:52), alongside siblings.
  • Physically – He experienced hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc.
  • Emotionally – He experienced sorrow, anxiety, separation, anger, etc.
  • Death – His actual death was confirmed by a spear in the heart (John 19:34)
  • Resurrection – Back to life with a literal body (Luke 24:42-43)
  • Witnesses – His body was seen by many first hand witnesses (I Corinthians 15:3-7)

IV. Jesus as Savior

  • Redemption – John the Baptizer describes Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29-34). In that statement, the Old Testament promises of a Deliverer are displayed and Jesus begins His ministry.
  • Exclusive – In John 14:6 Jesus says He is the ONLY way to God. His statement is clear, concise, and without room for interpretational gymnastics. Based on Jesus’ words, there are no other options for salvation outside of faith in Him.
  • Grace – Forgiveness of sin and freedom are available through Jesus (Romans 8:1-2)
  • Reigning – Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that He is sitting beside the Father now reigning as King.
  • Advocate – Jesus is our go-between with the Father, and we can turn to Him in our time of need (I John 2:1-3)
  • Returning – Revelation 19:11-16 describes a returning King taking care of business. The name He wears is KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS and all will know He is God.

V. The Question

So, who is Jesus to you? I pray that you know Him in a real way today. If not, I encourage you to acknowledge Him in prayer, confess Him as Lord, ask Him to take charge of your life, and He will change you forever!

Have We Lost the Battle?

Last week in Munich, Germany I had the opportunity to work with some great folks who are tirelessly trying to reach their city with the Good News of Jesus. It’s a tough environment in many ways and what the experts call a “Post-Christian” context (with only 2% of the population being born-again believers). At one point, we climbed to the top of a tower to pray over the city. As I looked out over the beautiful spires of grand, once-filled-now-empty cathedrals, a sinking question hit me; “Have we lost the battle?” I wish I could say I had a great faith-filled moment where all seemed right in the world, but I just felt grieved.

Over the next few days as we worked and prayed, I was led to a passage of scripture as I thought about another question, “How do we win?” The answer came through words written long ago to people who probably wondered the same things, and I want to share them. For the record, we haven’t lost the battle, it’s being won every day one-life-at-a-time; but as we plan, pray, and partner, here are some powerful words to keep us on track:

3 “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:

If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith;
if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation;
giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written:

“Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.”

20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. 21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” –Romans 12:3-21 HCSB

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