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In God we Trust

“In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” – Luke 7:21 – 22

John the Baptist is in prison and getting impatient and frustrated. John was a religious guy, he obeyed God’s plan for his life to live in the desert and preach repentance and the coming of the Messiah. He sacrificed comfort and luxury. As far as we know, he never married. He knows that Jesus is the Messiah, but the longer he stares at the walls of his cell the more he doubts whether that is really true. Unable to wait any longer he sends two of his students to ask Jesus, straight up, “Are you the Messiah or not?”

But Jesus does not respond right away. This is such a Jesus move. Instead of giving John an instant message, Jesus continued to preach the gospel, heal people, cure their diseases, restore their sight, and cast out demons. Afterward, Jesus told John’s messengers: Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard. Weird answer, right? John wonders whether Jesus is the promised Messiah, but Jesus says: “Tell John about all the miracles I’m performing.” What sounds dismissive at first is a profoundly helpful instruction in how to respond when doubt creeps in and shakes our faith.

First, Jesus directs John to Scripture. He wasn’t simply letting John know about a bunch of miracles. Jesus was quoting one of the best-known prophecies concerning the Messiah, from Isaiah. Second, Jesus instructs us to look beyond our personal circumstances.

The key question for all of us, just as it was for John the Baptist, is simple: “Do we trust God?” When the going gets tough, it is not about simply believing in God. The question is not “Do you believe that God exists?” or “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” The question is, “Do you trust God?” Belief is important, but in the darkest days it is trust that gives us hope.

Majesty in the Manger

In many ways, there was nothing particularly special about the baby or the birth. That poverty, that greeting party (AKA the shepherds); none of it was worthy of a king. None of it was majestic. And yet the birth of Jesus was precisely that. Within its mystery was such mighty love as only a true leader of all humankind could display. It was majesty in its purest, most marvelous form. His first breaths in a cowshed and his first steps as a refugee on the run from a despotic regime, they were exactly the kind of remarkable start that only our King of Kings would choose. And in this detail we discover a profound truth that God was prepared to go to extraordinary lengths in order to reach us.

This whole chapter in Isaiah is a key player in the Bible. It is quoted in the books of John, Matthew, and Romans to name but three, and it presents us with the clearest explanation of sin and atonement. And these verses that form Isaiah’s poem are at the heart of his book. They point so clearly to the life of Jesus and to the salvation of His people. While his words were intended to be relevant to Isaiah’s contemporaries, the truths echo across the centuries and reveal so much about the majesty found in that manger.

There’s majesty in the manger all right. There in the stable we find the hope of our hearts. It might not look like much to some, but to those who have knelt before the Lord, who have confessed their sin and accepted His forgiveness, it is more precious and powerful than any earthly power before or since, it’s clear that He comes for a single, clear reason; because we need Him. Our ‘infirmities… our sorrows’ place us in such dire need of help.

Born a Hero

It’s finally here . . . Christmas! There’s a special magic about this most special of days, isn’t there? Why is that? Is it because of all the presents, decorations, meals, and gatherings of friends and families? Yes, but there is so much more . . .

It’s because, around the world, we celebrate the birth of a Savior! According to Isaiah 9:6–7, one would assume the prophet was predicting the birth of an earthly king, complete with fanfare, parades, and feasts! But God had different plans. Jesus, the Messiah, would not be born with the celebration of a hero. He would be born a zero. He was not born of wealth, power, or privilege. He was not even born indoors, but in a barn, surrounded by livestock, to an unwed teenager. He was not born like a king.

Isaiah 53:2–3: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

Not a hero. A total zero. But that was the brilliance of God’s ultimate gift to us: our Savior’s true beauty, strength, and purpose would be made evident through his teaching, compassion, love, and, ultimately, his sacrifice. Christ came to and existed on earth through the lowliest of means in order to experience our own joys, pains, passions, and sorrows firsthand. It put him on a level playing field with each of us.

So, we celebrate the birth of a King, but not any king. The King of Kings, who can truly understand our greatest joys and deepest pains. Something tells me that today, you are experiencing one of those emotions. It might be filled with joy, but in the eyes of your heavenly Father, you are not a zero and never will be. You are a precious, loved, and cherished child of God, and you were created in his image. YOU are a gift in his eyes, and I pray you find comfort in that truth.

May the peace of Christ be with you and Merry Christmas!


Courtesy – Donald Smith

The flashlight is one of my favorite features on my phone. It allows me to be in complete darkness one moment and then say, “Let there be light!” With the push of a button, suddenly there is light. When there is light from my phone, I can move forward out of darkness with confidence and assurance that I won’t face-plant into a wall. Light is a good thing!

I think God agrees with me. In fact, after God created the heavens and the earth, he said, “Let there be light.” And suddenly there was light. God saw that the light was a good thing, and he separated the light from the darkness. Since that point in time, there has been a great contrast between light and darkness. In fact, there exists a symbolic theme of moral opposition that has been developed throughout the Bible, and we experience it in our daily lives. Light is a word and an idea used in connection with joy, blessing, and life. Darkness is a word and an idea associated with sorrow, adversity, and death. Light represents good and darkness represents evil. It was very creative of God to use light, or, more specifically, a light in the sky, to bring men to discover the Light of the World. We know from the Christmas narrative that a light (star) suddenly appeared in the sky. The light led some wise men to Jesus. It was God saying once again, “Let there be Light.” And the Light is most absolutely a good thing. The Light God sent into the world brings joy to our sorrows, blessings to our adversities, and life to our death. The Light is the reason that good dominates evil and we can clearly see our paths forward. Light coming into the world is worthy of an ENORMOUS celebration.

So, as we continue to celebrate the magic of Christmas, let’s consider the goodness of the Light and remember to let our lights shine during Christmas and throughout the coming year.

Our savior found us

The Bible is full of descriptions of sin, and wherever it does, there’s often a lot to read on the subject of separation. Sin has a way of doing that to us, leaving us cut adrift from God.

Here in this passage in Genesis we find the first, but not the last, of the Bible’s depictions of sin. Eve eats an apple and disobeys God. And it’s the fallout that reveals so much.

The serpent achieves his aim of bringing about a separation between man and God. It worked, nearly, but not quite.

Look again at the passage and recreate in your own mind that bit where God walks about the garden. So holy is God that Adam and Eve are no longer allowed to be within strolling distance, for God cannot have sin around. It’s not that he doesn’t like it, not that it makes Him awkward and uncomfortable. God cannot have it around, and sin cannot be around Him.

But even that is not the end of the story, for God does something remarkable. He calls out. Yes, God knows full well where Adam is, but still God calls out. Why? Because He wants Adam to know that He’s looking. Why is He even in the garden in the first place? Because He’s looking for Adam. Because He wants to put things right.

All of us have times when we hide from God. And we have times when we seek Him too. But whether we’re running away from Him or running towards, no matter how great the darkness, God’s posture towards us never changes. He seeks us out. He won’t ever relent.

Son of God, Son of man.

“6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”. – Romans 5:6 -11.

Isaiah 53 reminded us of the fact that Jesus died because we messed up, and this passage in Romans carries on the theme. It’s all so clear; each of us are sinners in desperate need of Jesus’s heart of mercy that longs to atone for us. It was only His blood that could pay the price, bringing us back out of exile and home to God. The only way that Jesus could die was for Him to take on flesh and bone in the first place. Paul explains that it is through not only Jesus’ death (6-8) but his resurrection (9-11) that we can now stand before God, secure that the debt has been paid, that the guilt and sin has been dealt with.

But does Paul mean when he writes about us being God’s enemies? Surely that can’t be right. Well, it is. Unbelief is hostility. Choosing to reject God places us opposite Him. But Jesus’ actions were so loving, His arms so strong that He made the first move. While we were wayward children, living against Him, His death put things right. And only He could have done it. Only heaven’s Lion could have become the perfect Lamb.

Look back at Leviticus 4:1-3 and 27-35 and we see that sin – whether intentional or not – needs to be paid for. Why? God has always longed for the hearts of His people, and this complex set of rituals was designed with one purpose in mind: to remind them of all that He had done for them. Back in Romans 5, verse 11, here it makes perfectly clear what happened when Jesus set aside His crown: he bought us back. He has made the ultimate exchange and prepared the way for us to approach God.

The woman with no name

Why did Jesus die? In all the talk about sin and separation, about the Lamb of God taking on our iniquities, there might be a danger that we miss an important fact; that Jesus died when he was betrayed by His friend Judas. He had enemies in high places. He was a victim of complex politics. He was let down by the crowd. So why did Jesus die? Because He was living among humans, and this world, so stained by sin, has a habit of throwing bad things at us. Jesus died because of sinful choices.

But does this mean it was all a mistake? Was Jesus unlucky? Could things have worked out differently if only better choices had been made? Of course not. Jesus was always going to die. His death was part of the plan, part of the route towards our salvation.

In choosing to come to earth, Jesus chose the ending on the cross. And that is where the power comes: as a willing, living, perfect sacrifice. There was nothing that could stop it. Redemption was released and its power was enough to set every prisoner free including you and me.

The Woman with no Name

“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.” – Luke 7:37 – 38.

The sinful woman in Luke 7 is in a bad spot. Her identity has been reduced to her sin. Yet she has learned something about Jesus, and she wants to learn more. Fortunately for your, Jesus’ recurring message to people was simply, “Come.” What do you do when the world has chewed you up and spit you out? You come to Jesus. No matter what you have done, no matter what has been done to you, come to Jesus. This woman has a lot of baggage. She has made many mistakes, but it does not stop her from coming to Jesus. Remember it is not about what you are going through, it is about who you are going to.

People are going to look at what you have done, but God sees what you are going to do. The world will put its labels on you, but God is in the business of changing your name. Throughout the Bible, God was changing names. “Abram” went from being childless to being “Abraham,” the father of a nation. “Jacob” went from deceiver to “Israel,” God’s chosen people. “Simon” went from a frightened and skittish disciple to “Peter,” whom Jesus referred to as “the rock.”Saul” went from Christian-killer to “Paul,” the greatest apostle ever.

This woman was simply known as a sinner, but Jesus had come to give her a new identity. Jesus is not careless. He is careful and welcoming. Maybe you feel like you have no identity. Maybe you feel like the nameless woman. Maybe you think your sin is your identity. I believe that God has a new name for you and that your ability to receive it is limited only by your willingness to go to him. The world is strong, but God is stronger. Remember this: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Moving Past the Past

“And standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” – Luke 7:38, 39.

How would you react if a prostitute showed up uninvited to a party where you were the guest of honor, knelt down at your feet, busted open a marble box full of perfume, and then began scrubbing your feet using that perfume and her tears? And then she dried your feet with her hair. You would freak out, right? But Jesus did not freak out. Jesus knew exactly what this woman was doing. In that day it was a sign of respect to anoint a person’s head with oil or perfume. But this woman likely did not feel worthy of honoring Jesus that way, so she anointed his feet, the lowest part of the body. Luke tells us that she even kissed Jesus’ feet, a sign of utmost humility and submission. The woman was expressing her tremendous gratitude to Jesus, most likely for the free gift of salvation. Her joy in Jesus’ presence was so overwhelming that she couldn’t stop crying. Her worship was loud and visible.

But right in the middle of her beautiful response to Jesus’ grace, condemnation rears its ugly head. As the Pharisee’s response shows, it does not take much to reveal a spirit of condemnation. All we have to do is to start loving sinners. The moment we do, condemnation will rise up. We must not let the voice of the Pharisee be louder than the voice of the Savior. We must not let condemnation speak louder than grace.

Sin, of course, is awful, and there is a time and place for calling it out. I’m not saying we should go soft on sin. I’m saying we should go bigger on grace. Condemnation is great at producing shame, guilt, and fear, and that is often how the Holy Spirit starts to bring us conviction for our sins. But none of these things are meant to be the basis for a healthy relationship with God or with anyone else. Relationships grow and mature based on honesty, trust, and love. And God wants us in that kind of relationship with him.

Who will receive the blessings?

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” – Psalm 24:3-4.

God wants us to receive every blessing that He has in store for us. That’s why He tells us in His Word how we can receive every one of His promises by having clean hands and a pure heart. What does that mean? First of all, we are made clean and pure by the blood of Jesus when we make Him our Lord and Savior and turn away from anything that displeases Him. And I’ve found that most of the time, it’s not the big things that keep us from God’s best; it’s the small things maybe it starts with an offense that turns into un-forgiveness. Or maybe you watch things on TV or the internet that you know you shouldn’t, and it becomes a bad habit that steals your time and pollutes your mind.

Make the decision today that you are going to be a person of excellence and integrity. Treat the people in your life with respect and kindness. Look for ways to be a blessing to others. Be determined to live a life that pleases God so that you can receive the honor, wealth, and abundance that He has in store for you.

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