Don’t Leave Him In The Manger

I love the Nativity Story. Even some non-Christians get all teary eyed hearing the Christmas story. There is something about God in the form of a helpless baby, born in a barn and cradled in a feed trough that can touch even the hardest heart. Immanuel, God with us, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The Word made flesh, born to a virgin, come to save the world.

A powerful story. But only the first chapter. There is so much more. We can not leave Him in the manger.

Hollywood loves to mock Christians. One way they have done this is showing less-than-spiritual, half-crazy characters praying to and praising “baby Jesus.” Myself, I find that rather offensive. Not humorous. I pray and praise not that small bundle of hope that brought God’s love to earth so long ago, but to a risen Savior who defeated death, hell and the grave. I have fellowship with and am in relationship with The Creator of the Universe who sits on His throne of Power in Heaven.

Jesus in the Manger didn’t destroy the works of the enemy. He didn’t shed His blood in humiliation and submission. Jesus in the manger can’t cleanse us of our sins. We have to see Him for who He really is. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is full of power and authority. Jesus in the manger touches our hearts. But Jesus on His throne changes our hearts.

Having said all of that, enjoy the Christmas plays, “Away in the Manger” and all the things that makes Christmas special. But remember what He has done and who He is. Get to know Him now. Have a blessed Christmas everyone!

Second Chances

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The Bible says that Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Because he listened and was obedient his whole family was saved from the devastation on the earth due to the flood. The only remaining eight people on the planet!

The Bible isn’t clear about the beliefs of Noah’s wife, sons or daughter-in-laws. We do know that Ham saw his father in a drunken, naked state and shamed his father by boasting about it to his brothers. Some even believe that Ham’s sin was something even worse. We do know that from the time of the flood to the tower of Babylon was around six generations (scholars vary on the amount of time). So what happened in those six generations? Who dropped the ball? Talk about a second chance. Don’t you think that the story of the ark was a favorite bedtime story for all of the kids, grandkids, great grand’s, etc. They wasted their second chance.

Our own children can be like that sometimes. Growing up in church. Knowing the word. But never having a personal experience with God. Somewhere along the long genealogy the personal relationship was let go. They ‘practiced’ their religion out of duty or tradition. Or possibly they started to believe that the story of the flood was just that, a story. Each of us has to reach a place where we build a relationship, personally with God. Unfortunately, that sometimes has to happen in the midst of a crisis.

Then there is the story that Jesus tells about the man who was forgiven a great debt, only to run out and demand repayment from someone who owed him a very small amount, (Matthew 18). What did the unmerciful servant do with his second chance? He used it to be a jerk. His end was worse than his beginning.
“’You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”

His original sentence would have just been jail time for an unpaid debt. Now he was to be tortured until the debt was repaid. (Which basically would have been never). How could he ever earn enough without being able to work? He was like us. We owed a debt we couldn’t pay.

Before you despair, there are plenty of people in the Bible who did wonderful things with their second (and third and forth) chances. Let’s do a quick rundown of a few.

Rahab, saved the spies, her life and the life of her family was spared and now she is listed in the genealogy of Jesus.

Ruth was forsake all to go with her mother in law, after they lost all the men in their family. She took her second chance and placed it in the hands of Naomi’s God and she too is in the genealogy of Jesus.

How about David? He was continually given another chance. He sinned with Bathseba, had her husband killed, lost the child from that sin, but repented and went on to be a great King. He invented instruments, wrote songs and psalms and instilled worship into the church.

The whole city of Ninivah took the second chance offered by God, through the disobedient Johan, and the whole city was spared.

Every disciple, but Judas, took their second chance and they changed the world. Peter became one of the leading heads of the early church and went out to the gentiles after having denying Christ!

There are more, in the bible, in history, and in the Church.

What will you do with your second chance?

Religion or Relationship?

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John the Baptist was quite the minister. He was a Wildman with long hair, dressed in goat’s hair clothing, living in the desert, eating things most decent people wouldn’t, and preaching to a people who hadn’t heard the voice of God in over 400 years. John railed at the religious leaders, railed at Herod, and prepared the way for the Messiah. His message was simple “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 3:2). A stiff necked, self-righteous people who thought they were special because God had chosen them, better than anyone else, needed to hear that they were sinners in need of a forgiving Father.

As he was standing at the Jordan one day, ministering according to his calling, the religious leaders show up. Did John puff himself up, feeling self-important due to the recognition of the ‘rock stars’ of his day? Did he welcome them with open arms? No he yelled for all to hear, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee the wrath to come? Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance- let your lives prove your change of heart.” He threatened them with hell-fire, then preceded with, “Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.” (Matthew 3:9).

John is a wonderful example of humbleness. He is NOT week or wishy-washy. He does NOT compromise his message or cow-tow to the big-name-leaders of his day. He DOES admit that he is nothing and the one coming after him is everything. He even goes as far as to say that he is “unworthy to untie the shoes” of the one coming after. And as he is standing at the Jordan that day, immediately after he warns the religious leaders, Jesus shows up, asking to be baptized. Once again John proves the condition of his heart by humbly declaring that Jesus was the one who should be baptizing him. Jesus insists, so that “righteousness will be fulfilled.” John clearly is not spouting and practicing religion. He is in relationship with God. How do we know that? Because he does as Jesus asks.

God is pleased with it, saying in verse 17, “This is my son, My Beloved in Whom I delight,” and is most versions says, “In whom I am well-pleased.” Moving on from John to Jesus, we see another example of a relationship. Jesus goes on to minister to the people, teaching, healing, casting out demons and feeding thousands, all proving his relationship with the Father. He only did what His Father told Him to do and only said what He told Him to say. Teaching in the temple they were all amazed at how He taught. He taught with authority, “and not as the scribes.” What was the difference in their teaching? The scribes knew the scriptures, memorized them even, but Jesus knew the one who authored them.

The religious leaders claimed a physical relationship with Abraham. They were all about their genealogies. But God always wanted a spiritual relationship son’s and daughters who loved Him. They would give a lengthy history of all of their ancestors, stopping at “Joseph, son of Abraham,” but never went back far enough to say, “Adam, the son of God.” In fact, that was one of the issues they had with Jesus. He claimed to be the Son of God, and they called that blasphemy. How little they understood the love of the Father.

Religion can’t save. It can only give a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ that we can’t ever manage to adhere to. Religion kills.

God never wanted the law. He wanted Sons and Daughters, children to love. Relationship with Him brings life and life more abundantly.

What do you want?
Religion or relationship?