All posts tagged Jesus

Don’t Stop at the Manger, Just Pause

Tears streamed down my face as the soloist sang Handel’s, “Hallelujah Chorus.” I sat mesmerized in the pew of my church over fifteen years ago, awestruck by the majesty of Handel’s musical portrait of Christ.

This year, my pastor in Mt. Airy, NC is doing a three-part series on the background of Handel’s Messiah in Sunday school. I’m glad.

Learning about the Oratorio forces my mind to consider the fulfillment in the prophecies of Christ. Listening to the splendid music helps me to experience the wonder of the Christmas miracle.

God became man and was born of a woman as a baby.

Often, at Christmastime, we don’t just pause at the manger, we stop. And then we move on to more important things like shopping and baking and family. We don’t take time to consider the significance.

Jesus came to die.

But before that, he lived a perfect life. And died a perfect death.

And sometimes we stop there. Handel didn’t.

The end of the second movement (I think that’s what you call it.) is the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The words are a quote from the prophet Isaiah when Jesus is prophetically called the Wonderful Counselor. The Mighty God and the Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace.

How can that be? One glance at the Internet or turn of the remote dispels any hope of peace.

Let me give you a couple of reasons. First, Christ’s kingdom isn’t of this world. At least—not yet.

In John 18, when Pilate asked Jesus if He is King of the Jews, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

So where is this mysterious kingdom? And where is this elusive peace?

Let me take you to one of the most famous passages of the New Testament, the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s gospel, chapters 5-7.

Jesus astounds the people and enrages the Pharisees when He describes a new kingdom of the heart. A kingdom of grace. A kingdom that begins in the heart and works itself out in actions. This kingdom is Christ in you. (For more information about that, refer to the book of John, chapters 14-16. Or just email me.)

The other kingdom described in Messiah, is a future kingdom. A kingdom ruled by the One True King. King Jesus.

In a day when we hear about government corruption, don’t you just long for a just ruler? One that has the best interests of His subjects in mind?

One day, there will be.

Here is my question to you; Are you part of Christ’s kingdom now? Do you want to be? It’s easy to do. But costly. You give up the right to run your own life.

But good.

Then, you will join that Hallelujah Chorus. And you’ll sound good.

Take time to pause at the manger, but don’t stop. Move on. Drink in His majesty. Meditate on His kingdom now and to come. Be amazed and awed by this baby in a manger. The King of Kings.

Listen and be amazed with me:

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Praise From a Bruised Reed

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about plants. I spend a lot of time with them and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s they’re delicate.

Today, I transplanted tiny basil plants outside. A few of them grew together and it fell upon me to separate them. I broke the soil blocks and gently pulled them apart, careful not to bruise the fragile root system.

So when my pastor spoke from the book of Matthew, about Jesus not breaking a bruised reed, I could relate.

The passage found in Matthew 12 is a quote from the Old Testament book of Isaiah 42:1-3

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations.

2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

3 a bruised reed he will not break,

and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice.”

What is a reed anyway? It’s like a big piece of  injured grass. Woodwind instruments use reeds as mouthpieces. But they’re not bruised.

A bruised reed is useless.

But not to Jesus.

Oodles have been written about this passage, but what engaged my thinking was how compassionate Christ was. Just like I tried to treat my little basil plants with tender-loving-care, Jesus treats people with that same care.

People who are over-looked, down-trodden, and abused. Jesus cares about them. He notices them. He loves them. He died for them and offers them forgiveness.

He cares about bruised reeds like you and like me. People who have no ability to save themselves. People who are weak and know it.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

My pastor finished his Sunday message with this, “One day, when we get to heaven, praise and honor and glory to our Lord and Savior will be blown by those of us who are bruised reeds.”

Are you broken? Down-hearted. The doorway to heaven is open to humble people. People who know they need a Savior.

I’m going to finish with another passage from John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

We can’t limp into heaven without Christ. We must bow before Him in adoration, repentance, and submission.

Will you enter?

Admit you’re a bruised reed?

 

Investing in Easter, The Entrance of the King

I live in Florida. At least for now. The palm tree pictured above is right outside my living room window–try not to covet.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. If you attended church, you probably heard a message from the gospels about Christ entering Jerusalem and the crowd throwing branches down for Jesus. Take a look at Matthew 21:1-11. Here it is from the NIV:

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, ”Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 ”Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ “ 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Since it’s 2000 years later, we know the end of that story. The same people who cried “Hosanna” which means “Save now,” cried crucify Him only a few days later. They weren’t looking for a Savior from sin, but a warrior against Rome.

I kind of like to think they wanted a McSavior: quick, convenient, and cheap.

Notice the end of the passage. The crowds asked, “Who is this?”

It makes me think of another question Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13-17. First He asks who the people say that He is. The disciples answer some say John the Baptist, Jeremiah, a prophet.

Then He gets specific. He asks them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

I’m asking you that same question, friend. Who do you say Jesus is? A good man? A prophet?

He claimed to be the Messiah. He claimed to be the Son of God.

Your answer to that question determines your eternal destiny. It can’t be the “McQuick” answer. Take a look at this:

“if anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26, 27.

A life of belief means a life of sacrifice.

But an eternity of benefits.

See you tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Investing in Christmas, Day 17-Light Amid Tragedy

We live in a dark world.

Sometimes I struggle with that.

It happened last December when I traveled to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Words can’t describe the darkness I felt. I wondered if God was good. If He cared. So many people. So much poverty.

I wrote my way through it. And God was faithful to show me His goodness ’cause I asked Him. I didn’t shake my fist at Him. That’s not wise. I bent low and pleaded.

He brought me to the life of Jesus. His compassion, His mercy, His humility.

A light.

Remember the light over the manger that led the wise men to Him? Darkness all around.

We forget that King Herod killed all baby boys under the age of two in order to wipe out a possible rival.

Darkness. Senseless killing.

Yet there was light.

Last week, more senseless killings in Newtown. Children, too.

Is there still light in this dark world of ours?

Yes. A brilliant light.

What is it? Or Who is it?

Just one verse for today: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

That God became man. The Christmas Story sheds light on history past, the present, and the future.

Today’s music will go back to the first day. The Hallelujah Chorus in a food court.

I almost posted a traditional choir singing that great composition, but the food court is better. If God’s Son can be glorified in a food court, He can be glorified anywhere.

Even amid tragedy.

To invest in Christmas today, why not share the light of Christ.

I’m going to suggest something a little strange. Why not go to the Dollar Store and purchase night lights. After sharing Christ, share the night light.

Then, be a light.

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Investing in Christmas, Day 13-Sorrowful Servant

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“Where shall I put the shoe-shine boy?” Sarah asks seriously.

“Next to the balloon guy.”

Setting up the 7 Christmas villages I own every year is a joy for me. But only if I have someone (like my daughter) helping me. (Actually, I help her. She is electrician, town engineer, and master builder.) I am talk-to-the-miniature-people-as-they-come-out-of-the-box specialist.

That’s the thing about Christmas. It’s fun if you have someone to be with. Family. Friends. Neighbors.

Christmas can be a real sad time for some. Sorrowful.

Sorrow is like a really bad stomache that doesn’t go away. It’s a cousin to grief–may be linked closely to compassion.

Today’s reading takes us to Isaiah 52:1-3:

“”Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot; and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

Jesus cried when His friend Lazarus died, even though Jesus knew He would resurrect his friend.

In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. He knew the devestation she would face. His people, the Jews would be massacred and suffer horribly.

We’ve read about the Garden of Gethsamanee and Christ’s grief, yet His obedience.

On the cross, He cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus, the Messiah was aquainted with grief.

Some of you may be grieving. Hurting real bad. Maybe someone you love died this year. Or a few years ago, yet the hurt is still so raw you can hardly function.

Or maybe your life has changed. Someone you loved and trusted has left you.

I’m sad for you, friend.

But my compassion doesn’t match the Savior’s.

He is kind and compassionate.

Read this passage from Lamentations 3:19-24 with your eyes and heart:

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them,and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Listen to this hymn sung by Ascend the Hill:

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There is great hope my dear friend. Christ died to give us life. This world isn’t all there is.

Count on it.

How to invest in Christmas? How about those of us who aren’t grieving this year open up our hearts to those who are. Pray for them. Invite them to your house if that will help. Or maybe just put your arms around them when you see them and tell them you care.

Because Christ, the Man of Sorrows cares.

See you tomorrow.