QTVOTD: The Shepherds and Symbolism of Jesus’ Birth…

Continuing in reading through the birth of Jesus in Luke reminds me of a Podcast done by our own Pastor Graydon Cress on the Life and Ministry of Jesus: The Birth of Christ. If you don’t listen to his podcasts that come out every Monday…you should. In this specific podcast linked above, Pastor Graydon gives some super cool background and some other historical data that gives you sort of a “Wow” moment in regard to God’s perfect plan to bring the Redeemer into the world. The part at the very end about The Tower of the Flock is soooo cool!

And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night.
   And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened.
   But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.
     For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!
   And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find [after searching] a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
   Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying,
   Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor].
   When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing (saying) that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. Luke 2:8-15 [AMP]

The first thing that stood out to me in this passage was that the angel “stood by them” and at the same time the “Glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them”. I can only imagine how scary this must have been for them. In my mind I can hear the angel calming them down and asking them not to be afraid; in this soothing angelic voice which must have been calming but still eclipsed by the bright light all around them. At this point they had to have some pretty strong confidence that this was a messenger of the Lord to send them this message in this particular way. And then to top it all off, the whole host of angels appears through what probably seemed like a spiritual veil to praise God with their voices.

These shepherds, after finding the baby Jesus just as the angel had told them, must have carried this story their entire lives and passed the recollection of the experience down to their children. My mind always goes to the unanswered questions like – “who of the shepherds stayed back with the sheep”? 🙂

QTVOTD: God Works Through All Kinds of Circumstances…

My Quiet Times have been spotty and I do not like this. I get to reading God’s Word almost every day but I don’t spend the time needed to truly consume it. This morning however, I made time to sit down and not only read the passage (Luke 2:1-7) but also do a little study on the timing of the Birth of Jesus.

IN THOSE days it occurred that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole Roman empire should be registered.
   This was the first enrollment, and it was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
   And all the people were going to be registered, each to his own city or town.
   And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the town of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
   To be enrolled with Mary, his espoused (married) wife, who was about to become a mother.
   And while they were there, the time came for her delivery,
   And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7 [AMP]

I try not to put all of the verses I have read through in a post like this but it is hard to point to what I learned without it. The Bottom-Line-Up-Front (BLUF) is that God works through all kinds of circumstances and people to effect His purposes. As I read and do my quiet times, I highlight every passage I read…I also underline the words/phrases that I think flow together to form the message and then I will read through again, looking at those underlines, to see what the context is IN (The authors point), AROUND (What was happening), and OUTSIDE (History) the passage to make sure I am taking it in appropriately. You can see how my bible is marked up here in Luke below

So, as I read through and looked at a commentary to help me understand the history of the this actual time period in relation to the Roman empire (Roman governors were very well educated and took great notes). What really made an impact on me was the specific circumstances that led to and surrounded the birth of Jesus our Savior. Because Bethlehem was surrounded by fields for grazing sheep from visiting shepherds for the census, there were more shepherds than normal. The humble situation that Jesus was born into (manger) was brought about by the lack of vacancies in Bethlehem. The orchestration of the aspects of God’s work is amazing…so that everything fits into place with His intention and fulfilment of scriptural prophesy. I again, am so thankful for God’s word so that we can learn all of these things as we seek His character and intention in our lives.

QTVOTD: Life in the Womb…

And it occurred that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
   And she cried out with a loud cry, and then exclaimed, Blessed (favored of God) above all other women are you! And blessed (favored of God) is the Fruit of your womb!
   And how [have I deserved that this honor should] be granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
   For behold, the instant the sound of your salutation reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
   And blessed (happy, to be envied) is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of the things that were spoken to her from the Lord. Luke 1:41-45 [AMP]

In my continued reading of Luke I just love this portion of the story of Jesus’ birth when Mary (while pregnant) visited Elizabeth and John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth at the time, leapt within her when he heard the voice of Mary when she arrived. The Holy Spirit had already dwelt within John even before he was born. There is no greater biblical evidence that the occupant of the womb is indeed a living ‘human being’ with an identity and image bearer of God.

There is no doubt in my mind that women who become pregnant unwittingly/unwillingly are under a tremendous amount of stress and emotion about the ultimate weight of giving birth and possibly caring for a new life. When I hear this story and understand life in the womb being just as much having a right to life as the mother, I grieve over the loss of life we have suffered in the pro-abortion culture we live in. Being a dad to 2 biological children and also 2 adopted children has only reinforced my belief that the child’s life must be an equal carrier of rights as the mother.

Lord God in Heaven, help us as a nation have a heart change to embrace a love for the unborn as well as the emotional and physical wellbeing of the mother. In the heart change we pray that the respect for sex being reserved for within the confines of a marriage covenant. The loss of respect for Your best plans for us in relationships and child rearing has played such a huge part in the degradation of these tenants you hold in such high esteem. Have mercy on our nation.

QTVOTD: I Owe Him Everything…

Fatigue – that is the word of the last several weeks as I continue to heal from COVID. I had a very mild case of symptoms (fever [99] for only 1 day, didn’t lose smell, no head cold, etc) and for that I am soooo grateful…what I have had though is the normal case of fatigue that lasts several weeks for me. I have a hard time thinking (this does not help with work at all) and putting things together; even in prayer, I find it more difficult to formulate my requests and gratefulness. What is good is that I am fine and healthy…just constantly tired and ready for bed; it is easy to nap for brief periods as well. I know this will all pass as it has in the past but in the waiting time, it is frustrating.

My reading has been in both Luke and Romans. Luke is where my QT progress has been steady but I have also been staying on top of Romans as we are doing a study of that book in our Life Group. This week is Romans 6 and I am always so encouraged by this chapter and the one following. It covers how we should view our sin relative to the grace we have been given in Jesus’ death for our sin. When we became ‘born again’ we became dead to the old self and were born again into a righteousness that hates sin. Before we were saved, we lived in sin that did not allow us to seek righteousness…because of our sin and giving of our flesh over to impure thoughts, desires, and pursuits. Now that the ‘Old Man’ in me is dead and I have been raised to walk a new life in righteousness that I have received IN Jesus, I now have a new pursuit to be more like Him…and flee the evil desires of the old self.

When I then bump that up against the story of Jesus being born into the world, preceded by John the Baptist, and all of the redemptive confirmation of prophesy in the coming of Jesus; is just so amazing to know what I have IN HIm and see that He is intimately familiar with any pain or suffering I might endure. I feel so fortunate and grateful for what He has given me in Himself and the Hope that I have in Him and spending the rest of eternity with Him.

Marianne, Sophie, and I have been watching ‘The Chosen’ and although I am never one to assign my Savior the image and extrapolation the writers of the series have decided to invent to make the stories more deep, I do appreciate that help in seeing the culture and customs that Jesus and the disciples were navigating through Jesus’ life and ministry. There are really good moments that help me see the challenges Jesus might have had when returning to Nazareth and then becoming open about His identity as the Messiah; the disbelief and scoffing that He endured by His own family and friends as depicted in the show were probably a glimpse into how uncomfortable and isolating it must have been. At the end of the day, He did all of this for ME. He was thinking of me when He looked forward to the death He would endure. I am so thankful for my Savior and I owe Him everything.

QTVOTD: …and of His Kingdom There Will be No End.

The phrase above is from Luke 1:33b where Michael the angel was telling Mary about her Son Jesus she would conceive.

As I was reading, it strangely dawned on me that we are in the ‘No End’ of the Kingdom of Jesus. I usually think of the Kingdom of Jesus beginning when He returns to take us home, at the rapture…but that is not the case, His Kingdom is now. We just need to truly follow Him to genuinely benefit from living in it.

Our ability to live in the freedom of the Kingdom of Jesus is predicated on our faith in the Son as God; the One Who prepares a place for us in Heaven to come. Living in that faith produces the fruit of the Spirit by our obedience to the teaching of Jesus in Gods Word. Think of that! We live in the ‘No End’ Kingdom of Jesus!

QTVOTD: O Favored One, the Lord is With You…

Luke 1:26-28 [ESV]
Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

I am really enjoying my journey through Luke! Just reading about how the Lord brought the messages of new birth to Elizabeth and Mary are so cool. My mind keeps going to what it must have been like in Heaven when this time to get things started with the coming of Jesus might be. The call to begin the set of event that would bring the Messiah must have been electric.

One of the things I have learned about our God is that He is very deliberate about everything He does. Everything action and event has a purpose. The situations of my life and ministry are no different. As I pray and look for direction as I move forward, I need to see the intent of Gods answers and opportunities He puts in front of me.

QTVOTD: Wonky Theology…

I am back after a week fighting COVID for the second time. If I am being fair, it was super mild the time I spent sleeping it off the first couple of days probably helped with the quick recovery. I am thankful to the Lord for the easy and quick recoup time.

On Saturday I got a knock on the door by some Jehovah Witnesses inviting our family to a ‘Memorial of Jesus’ Death’ service. First, on Easter we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Yes, we do have ‘Good Friday’ services, but the main thrust of Easter is “He is Risen!”. Jehovah’s witnesses have some fundamental breaks with the Christian faith:

  1. They don’t believe in the Trinity – they believe that God the Father alone is the only one and true God.
  2. Therefore, they believe that Jesus was something other than God and more likely an angel. They believe and teach that Jesus Christ is the incarnate name of Michael the archangel. Further, they believe that Michael was the first angel created by God the Father and is second in command in God’s organization.
  3. They also deny that the Holy Spirit is a person. They believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force that God uses to accomplish His will.
  4. Because they do not believe that Jesus is God, they do not believe in Salvation through faith alone. They believe in a complicated works-based salvation process where they likely will not achieve eternal life because they believe that only 144,000 will reach that eternal security.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses explicitly deny the gospel by grace alone through faith alone apart from works. They deny that a person is justified by faith. They deny the nature of Christ and the atonement; they deny the resurrection and the just wrath of God upon sin. Therefore, it is impossible to affirm that a consistent Jehovah’s Witness is also a genuine Christian.

The bible translation they adhere to is the New World Translation which is full of alternate readings that do not have textual warrant in either the Greek or the Hebrew. Nearly all of these alternate readings are intended to support the particular views of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So, this is all very interesting in light of my current reading in Luke of the conception of Jesus by Mary after receiving the word from the angel Gabriel that she would be having a Son and that would name Him Jesus.

QTVOTD: Reproach Removed…

Last day here in Dallas and head back tomorrow. I have learned sooo much and will begin to apply my new education starting as early as next week. I can’t wait to see my family tomorrow as I have missed them so much. Can not wait to gaze at their beautiful faces and hug them tight.

Luke 1:24-25 [ESV]
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Today I finished up this story of Zechariah coming out of the temple after seeing the angel and losing his voice due to his unbelief. The temple worshippers had gotten concerned because he was taking so long in the holy place burning incense. Priests we’re encouraged to not dilly dally due to the fact that the people would fear that God had struck the Priest down in punishment for a ceremonial miss. One of the great honors the Priest picked to do the incense was able to was address the people after the incense offering but he could not because of his newfound muteness.

Now we come to Elizabeth and her conceiving a son. In biblical times, it was considered that a married woman was being punished if she was unable to bear children. Even more so for a Priest’s wife as it was important to keep the Priestly lines running. These barren women were often ridiculed. So, it is thought that she hid for the 5 months so she could wait until she began to ‘show’ as to silence the scoffers. This was why she said that not only did the Lord give her a son but He also took away the burden of the reproach she had carried for being unable to bear children earlier.

Elizabeth though that she was being punished by the Lord but His real plan was to bring glory to Himself through Elizabeth by giving her a child when she was thought to be barren.

For me, the takeaway here is that although it is perfectly ok for me to lament situations, circumstances, and trial in my life, I must also know that perseverance will likely produce a future understanding of Gods ultimate will and purpose for a suffering I might endure. I must also understand that I may never see the will purpose in ‘my’ lifetime.

QTVOTD: A Strong Rebuke and Consequence…

Day 3 in Texas (Head home on the 5th). One more day of the Seminar tomorrow and we will be done. R and I had dinner with his daughter and her boyfriend which was such a nice treat. Tons of fun and laughter. Seeing the love of God in these 2 was so encouraging and inspiring as this culture and society have so many worldly pressures it puts on them.

And Zachariah said to the angel, By what shall I know and be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.
   And the angel replied to him, I am Gabriel. I stand in the [very] presence of God, and I have been sent to talk to you and to bring you this good news.
   Now behold, you will be and will continue to be silent and not able to speak till the day when these things take place, because you have not believed what I told you; but my words are of a kind which will be fulfilled in the appointed and proper time. Luke 1:18-20 [AMP]

Remember yesterday the angel told Zechariah that he would have a son, he would call his name John, he could not have wine or any fermented drink, and he would bring many Jews back to faith in God…preparing them for the coming Messiah. Well now, today we have Zechariah’s response…

“How can I be sure of this?” Zechariah says. Holy crud! An angel of the Lord has appeared before you in the Holy Temple of God telling him all of this stuff! How many times in God’s word have we seen the Israelites ask for more when the God of Abraham has shown them something supernatural?? Ok, now, let’s get real. If I am being honest, I am guilty of the same thing. How many times has the Lord laid something on my heart and me knowing its Him, not respond in the way or timing that I know I should…I am no better.

Zechariah follows with more…”I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Zechariah is now resorting to excuses as to why he thinks he has a right to question the validity of what the angel is saying. He is essentially saying, “Even if this is the Lord telling me what is going to happen, I am not equipped for this thing the Lord wants me to do.”

…and then the angel speaks – “I am Gabriel. I stand in the very presence of God, and I have been sent to talk to you and bring you this good news.” When I listen to this, my thoughts go to what must be going through Gabriel’s mind. First, Gabriel is essentially forced to give his credentials; he gives his name and then explains that unlike Zechariah, he not only understands what it means to stand in the throne room of God, but he has also had a direct command by God to come and give Zechariah this good news.

Now, Gabriel brings the hammer down. Without any pause for Zechariah to pullback his challenge, Gabriel now informs him that he will be unable to speak until these things he has said come to pass…why?…because Zechariah failed to believe. To reject Gabriel was serious and it would have its consequences. Gabriel leaves no room for uncertainty. What God has said will come to pass.

Abraham, Gideon, and Hezekiah all asked for signs too but the spirit of this request from Zechariah was ‘unbelief’.

QTVOTD: Foreshadowing a Preparation for the Messiah…

A great first full day in Dallas. A combination of mind blowing learning interspersed with wonderful fellowship. I feel so grateful for this time here to learn skills for developing post-corporate-life income and work. I know my family (especially my wife) is dealing with a lot of busyness and stress; that part does not sit well with me.

Luke 1:14-17 [AMP]
And you shall have joy and exultant delight, and many will rejoice over his (John the Baptist) birth,
For he will be great and distinguished in the sight of the Lord. And he must drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit even in and from his mother’s womb.
And he will turn back and cause to return many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,
And he will [himself] go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn back the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient and incredulous and unpersuadable to the wisdom of the upright [which isthe knowledge and holy love of the will of God]—in order to make ready for the Lord a people [perfectly] prepared [in spirit,adjusted and disposed and placed in the right moral state].

What an amazing passage. Verse 14 is the angel Zechariah saw in the temple making kind of a ‘no duh’ statement about how happy both Zechariah and Elizabeth would be over this child. Of course! They’ve been praying for a child through their married life.

Verse 15 gives some instruction (through the angel) about how to raise and protect John once he is born. It almost looks like he might actually fall under similar requirements as that of a lifelong Nazirite (Numbers 6:1-8). However, because the angel does not mention the ban on cutting John’s hair, this is less probable.

Verses 16 & 17 give the impression that John will have a heavy influence on the turning of hearts and minds back to God and that many would be prepared in spirit for the coming of Jesus. John is one of those figures in the Bible I am anxious to meet in Heaven.