While settling into this new year of 2023, one verse of scripture had a profound effect on me. I’d like to meditate on it and keep it at the center of my thinking and being as I watch the overwhelmingly negative, chaotic, confusing, troublesome world news headlines splashing across my television screen, flooding my daily email inbox, and posting around social media platforms.
The verse reminds me there is someone who really is in charge, who really is powerful, who really is great, who really is high and lofty, who really has won battles (fairly), who really is beautiful and majestic to look on and strong enough to draw from, who really is the biggest real-estate mogul. 🙂
1 Chronicles 29:11-13 (ESV) says,
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty,
for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.
In your hand are power and might, and in your hand, it is to make great and to give strength to all.
And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
I would like to keep this truth about God at the forefront of my mind for the rest of 2023, and thereafter. It assures me I have a safe place to run, where I can talk about the crises that sometimes threaten or shatter my well-being on earth. I’m confident that He’s unlike the self-aggrandizing person but is always sitting high but looking low, carefully circling the heavens and the earth–perusing, watching, monitoring, seeing, knowing, providing, and in complete control of all the people, places, and things He owns—even if it seems He’s not.
I neglected to post during the Thanksgiving holiday, and now we’re in the Christmas season. The two holidays, nonetheless, carry similar themes of love, sharing, fellowship, giving, and gratefulness, so we can continue these regardless of when. As I prepare gifts for those I love, this idea of gratefulness is still upon me. Christmas is the time we reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ presented to us from God the Father. My reflective readings about His birth during this season have intrigued me from another vantage point. I was in awe of how God invited people to help deliver Jesus into the world.
Long before He was to arrive on earth, Old Testament Israelite prophets foretold a Messiah’s coming. Customarily, prophets delivered important messages or instructions for remaining close to God. Foretelling involves predicting events before they occur. In both the Hebrew Bible and the Holy Bible, there are stories that tell the history of the Israelite nation and the laws and customs they were to observe to maintain their relationship with God. God had chosen them for such. For centuries, these were read in the congregation and passed down throughout generations. One significant message was their promise of a Messiah. The prophets received these messages from God himself, angels, through revelation and types of Christ, in visions with astounding imagery, or in dreams. It’s important then to attempt to understand things about Jewish culture to better understand things revealed about Jesus in scripture since He would be born a Jew. As they would soon learn and hear Jesus Christ lay claims to, He was their promised Messiah.
Hearing a story year after year without any manifestation can become taxing and after a while appear untrue. One can lose hope or faith when a promise lingers unfulfilled. After all, this Israelite community experienced several hardships and struggles. They endured political and economic control by other empires and exile to foreign lands, where they became slaves. They faced insurmountable oppression and injustice. The promise of a redeeming King who would rule Israel, I’m sure, was something they longed for. After proclaiming this promise for centuries, many did not live to see its fulfillment. Nonetheless, the promise remained in many of their hearts and minds. (See Jeremiah 23:5–6; Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 7:14; Isa 9:6-7; Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Daniel 7:13–14)
Fast forward to around 6 and 4 BC, and God is ready to fulfill His promise to Israel. From this same nation, he needs a woman, Mary, to supernaturally conceive, carry, and birth Jesus, and a husband/father, Joseph, to help her raise Jesus according to Jewish culture and teach him life skills to sustain himself as he grew into a man. They were happily engaged and possibly planning a blissful wedding celebration with family and friends. The Lord interrupts their plans, and they both willingly agree to participate with God. In essence, they both say, “Okay, Lord, let it be so.” (See Luke 1:26-38; Matt. 1:18-25)
God also needed Mary’s relatives, Elizabeth, and Zechariah. This couple may have been depressed at this time, as they were living through the shame of barrenness. They’re also old in years, maybe haggard. God approaches and needs them to conceive a child as well, who would come naturally through their union. Elizabeth births Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, who would set the stage for Jesus’ upcoming ministry on earth. “But this is a health risk; she can die during delivery,” we would argue today. (See Luke 1:5-24; Mal. 3:1; Luke 1: 1:8-17; Luke 3:1-21; Luke 4:14-15). Chosen for God’s plan, these women believed and spoke it, as Luke 1:45 shows, “And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
In addition, God needed witnesses to Jesus’ birth. He chose two groups just for that. First, there were shepherds who lived nearby. They were in the fields watching over and caring for sheep. These may have been priestly shepherds who understood the custom of presenting an animal’s blood to atone for sin, and who knew about the coming Messiah. We can safely assume this because the angel specifies, “Your Savior is born.” At that moment, they may have had an instant recall of what they already knew about a Passover Lamb who will take away the sins of the world. They’re ecstatic! “It’s finally happened,” they may have shouted. In haste, they rush to see and recognize everything was exactly as they were told. They leave in joy, praising God for all He has done. Be sure, they’re not running to pompously brag to Roman officials about their new king or to gather a crowd to start a political or social uprising. No. It’s an OMG moment, one of astonishment and joy! (Luke 2:8-20)
Finally, there were wise men. Nothing more, just a few guys who were wise, it reads. They were wise enough, we see, to notice an unusual star in the sky that told about a “king of the Jews.” They travel to Jerusalem to ask where this child was. King Herod also wants to know and asks the experts in the law where this king was to be born. (Was he nervous or jealous about another king exceeding him?) They tell him the location. Not so wise, ‘eh? King Herod lies and tells the wise men he too wants to worship this child. Intrigued by the child, the wise men present Jesus with gifts that are symbolic of all He was and all He would endure. They don’t fear the King’s wrath over God and have sense enough to return a different way so the evil king could not find and kill Jesus (Matt 2:1-12). How interesting that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, himself would need protection and preservation by the wise men and by his earthly father Joseph, who was also warned to leave town so Jesus could live (Matt. 2:13-15).
This is the story of Jesus Christ—at least the part of His story that tells how He got here; there’s more. Please read it for yourself. It’s a remarkable, true story. It shows us how strategic God was in bringing into the world His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. He would proclaim the kingdom of God and fulfill God’s plan of salvation for all nations. And He was willing to relate with and include humans in the process. Were these Israelites special or extraordinary? Did they have a divine superpower within them? No. They are people who knew, maintained, and trusted God’s promise. Like us, they were going about their daily life activities or work, planning, and living their lives. They had human bodies, hearts, minds, and wills, just like us. But they humbled themselves when God appeared and interrupted their lives. From their long history with Him, these understood He has that right. Going along with God’s plan sometimes may seem to us uncanny, unconventional, strange, or appear risky. It may involve stopping what we are doing, listening intently, changing our plans, or completely abandoning them (in some instances), and accepting His will, His way. I think about how I would respond today to an angelic visit with a message from God. Would it be as these individuals demonstrated?
We should never doubt our significance or usefulness to God. He’s not so high and lofty that He doesn’t look down on or bypass the common person to use him or her for His glory. Neither our sorted personalities nor troublesome predicaments are drawbacks to His inclusion of us. We’re not so inadequate or flawed that He overlooks us for service in His kingdom. The times in history have changed, but there are more written promises the Lord has made that are yet to be fulfilled. So, He is still working by His Spirit for His kingdom purposes. I’m grateful these ordinary people said “yes” to God’s unprecedented way of delivering His Son, Jesus Christ, to us. Because they did, Jesus Christ came, lived, died, but rose again. This resulted in His rescuing us from sin’s dominion, sin’s power, sin’s penalty, and–coming very soon—from sin’s very presence. Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection fulfilled the law and all God’s righteous requirements to be in a relationship with Him. Hallelujah! You need only to believe.
Please, go ahead and open the gift that was delivered to you, and receive all Jesus Christ has done on your behalf. 😊
Maybe you have never heard about Jesus Christ. This blog is your first-time hearing His name mentioned. Allow me to introduce Jesus Christ to you. One of the biblical authors, the apostle Paul, tells us good news about Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 in the Bible, Paul says,
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…”
Jesus was a real human being who lived and died on earth, my friend. This is not a fictional story. John 3:16-17 from the Bible tells us why Jesus came. It says,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
So, you see, Jesus came from God on a mission born out of love. Unlike others, God did not send Jesus to shake His finger in your face to scold you about how “bad” you are, or to stick his nose up at you to show how much your actions “repulse” Him. In fact, the intent was just the opposite.
Emanating from God’s heart of love for humanity, and His compassion and mercy which He has plenty of, God was propelled to send His Son, Jesus Christ–to save us from sin. The idea of humanity needing a savior is true. We do! Being “saved” from something suggests a problem or danger exists that we need to be rescued from. There’s something bad or negative lurking around in the shadows. Right?
Well, yes, there is a danger lurking around in our human hearts and world – it’s called “sin.” Sin is not something God likes or participates in. On the other hand, humans, unfortunately, have a natural proclivity for it. We were born in sin and have the instinct to partake of sin’s fruit. At one point, God recognized how humankind’s proclivity for sin and evil was so great, He relented (or regretted) that He had made mankind. That’s pretty saddening, I’d say. It says, in the first book of the Bible, Genesis chapter 6, verses 5-7,
“But the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended.”
We have an opportunity to understand here how God does take issue with sin (the word we hate to say); it is the problem or danger in us that stands in the way of Him and us. It’s in the way of us rightly relating with God because He is Holy and, as the younger generation would say, He’s “all good.” Yes, God is good and therefore sin must be faced, addressed, and dealt with in order to know Him.
Bing! This is where a Savior is key and Jesus Christ is important to get to know. Jesus Christ stood in the gap for you and me to handle this sin problem that offends God. Sin has a penalty—death–and somebody has to pay a price for it to stay in God’s company. This is what Jesus did. One time, for all, Jesus took the punishment for sin that humanity deserved so that we could become the righteousness of God. Jesus, a good guy, died a criminal’s death on the cross. The Bible says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21,
“In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses [sins] against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God!’
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.”
The good man Jesus, the Savior, took the fall for the bad guys (you, me, and the rest). We can, however, be reconciled (made right) before God right now and begin a relationship with Him because of the fall Christ took and the price Christ paid on the cross for our sins. Please, do so.
God wants us near and close to Himself, as family members. God, the Father wants you to know and experience His life. Simply believe and receive this truth about his Son, Jesus Christ—that He came as the Savior of the world and died, was buried, and rose again to bring you to God. He was more than just a religious prophet and teacher. In fact, Jesus Christ is the only One who can bring us to share in God’s eternal life, as Acts 4:12 shows us this about Jesus’ name. It says,
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”
Don’t reject the message about Jesus Christ any longer. It is true. Believe and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior right now. Ask Him to come into your heart and give you God’s eternal life. Then the truth about what this eternal life is, as recorded in John 17:3, will immediately begin in you. It says,
“Now this is eternal life—that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.”
“Welcome…nice to meet you. Please, come in and have a seat at my table,” you will sense God saying, once you do! 😊