Boldness

John the Baptist was a firebrand. He was rugged, outspoken, confident, and purposeful. People flocked to hear him, and his name was a regular topic around the marketplace. But how did John “the son of Zacharias”, eventually become “John the Baptist”? It was his calling. John was the last of a long line of Old Testament prophets. His conception was miraculous and his upbringing unusual:

“So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” – Luke 1:80 NKJV

John can’t be separated from his context. Many men probably wanted to be like him (but without the desert and locusts). His wilderness gatherings were a regular destination for those wanting to hear the strong messages. However, his sermons weren’t just passionate soapbox rants, they were preparing the way for the Son of God. There’s a difference between God-ordained strong words and man-produced ones. John’s goal wasn’t to be popular, famous or “cool”, he was speaking from years alone in the desert with God. When he spoke, he used pointed words given to him by the Lord, for the Lord’s people, and for the Lord’s purposes.

Sometimes in the life of faith, there’s a desire to speak strong words, but there hasn’t been any “desert time” first. The words of a disciple should reflect time spent with Him, then He empowers their use for eternal purposes. In the meantime, silence may be the “word of the day”. When He does move your spirit to speak, do so with confidence, humility, love, and His purpose as the goal.

Amazed

Jesus chose to set aside His glory, take on flesh, and be one of us. Because of that, He initially had to go through a growth process. There’s a story recorded of Him engaging the temple leaders in conversation when He was twelve. Luke describes His actions this way as Joseph and Mary were walking in:

“…sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” – Luke 2:46b:47 NKJV

Jesus was conversational. Even before He had fully reached maturity, He was perplexing those who considered themselves “learned”. His purpose wasn’t to embarrass the temple leadership, He was just being Himself. He was naturally drawn to conversation about spiritual and scriptural things. It was His method then, and still is now. Through the Holy Spirit, conversation can be happening any time; and in a healthy conversation there’s time to talk and time to listen.

Has He amazed you lately? He still astonishes if we’re willing to talk and listen; especially if we’ve started considering ourselves “learned”. We may not always understand the answers, but the time is well spent.

Detours

Have you ever been driving along when a detour sign forces you off-course? It can be like that sometimes on the road of life too. You’ve probably experienced it; having a route all planned when someone walks up holding a “detour sign” in the form of unexpected news. Joseph and Mary did. As they were settling into the routine of child-raising and future family planning, an angel appears speaking words of detour:

“Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” – Mathew 2:13 NKJV

Rarely are detours welcomed, even if they’re the result of our own choices. Most people don’t make plans hoping for someone else to change them and time off-course can feel wasted. Egypt hadn’t been part of Joseph’s plan for his young family, but it was God’s way of protecting them. Not only did He send an angel to warn and instruct them, He sent Magi with lavish gifts to fund the journey. God is incredibly gracious that way. He’s always mindful of our location, and will provide what we need as we go.

Where are you today on the journey? Perhaps you’re just getting back on course or you’ve just noticed a warning sign ahead. If so, God is still in control…in Egypt and beyond.

Wisdom 14.26

“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” – Proverbs 14:26-27 NKJV

Do you have a healthy fear of the Lord? When you consider Him, do you sense the awesome power of His presence, while also knowing the kindness of His love? Prayerfully seek Him today and pray for others to embrace Him for who He really is…Awesome God, Sovereign King, and Gracious Savior. That’s the point of deep appreciation and where confidence begins to grow.

Your

Simeon’s biography in Luke’s gospel is an “espresso” passage (small serving size, but strong content). He’s described as just, devout, and waiting for the Consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit leads him to the Temple to see Jesus. As he holds Him in his arms, Simeon speaks these words:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all the peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” – Luke 2:29-32 NKJV

Look at the focus of his words:

  • You are letting
  • Your servant
  • Your word
  • Your salvation
  • You have prepared
  • Your people

Notice the absence of me, my, and mine. Even though he was being rewarded for his faithfulness (and could have felt very prideful), there was an outward focus on God, His plan, and others being included in it. It revealed the humble heart of a man who couldn’t have known he would be memorialized forever in scripture. His life was lived with a “Your” mindset; how about you today?

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” – James 4:10 NKJV

Expectations

God recognizes no boundaries but His own.

When Jesus was born, the stable wasn’t an unwanted by-product due to all the travelers for the census, it was the plan. The timing wasn’t unforeseen, nor the circumstances. Jesus was born a Jew, within the confines of what God had ordained all along. On the eighth day, He was presented:

“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” – Luke 2:21 NKJV

It’s easy to overlook the importance of the fact that Jesus had to come, live, die and rise again in a specific way to become our substitute. The Law and Old Covenant was a precious part of God’s redemptive plan. It defined perfection to His standards, and He alone fully met the requirements. Along the faith journey, we can subconsciously forget that God operates within boundaries; His own.

God will always act within His righteous nature. When life choices present themselves and we’re looking to God for help, the statement of “I know what the Bible says, but…” is a bad place to start. Jesus faced pressure every day to act in ways according to people’s expectations, but He rarely did. He operated within the constraints of His own words given to the Prophets years earlier.

How do you see God’s plan for your life? Does it match up with a scriptural definition of a disciple, or some “reasonable” mixture of pop-culture and faith?

“…If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” – John 8:31b NKJV

Merry Christmas!

“We sing, Immanuel, Thy praise,

Thou Prince of Life and Fount of Grace,

Thou Flower of Heaven and Star of Morn,

Thou Lord of Lords, Thou virgin born,

Hallelujah!

And I, Thy servant, Lord, today

Confess my love and freely say,

I love Thee truly, but I would

That I might love Thee as I should.

Hallelujah!”

– Paul Gerhardt, 1653

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