Friday, August 22, 2014

The Young Maiden

Read: Luke 1:26 – 38
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!” You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”  (Luke 1:30-31 NLT)
            The first promise of a redeemer took place when God passed judgment on
the serpent (Satan) in Genesis 3:15.  God said to the serpent,
“Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals, cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life.  I’m declaring war between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers.  He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.”  (The Message)
The fall of man caused a separation between God and man.  Isaiah says, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.  Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.”  (Isa. 59:2 NLT)  The only way to repair the damage done by the disobedience of Adam and Eve was for God himself to come down from heaven in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ and offer himself as a blood sacrifice for the sins of mankind. 
To fulfill the plan of redemption, God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in search of a young maiden by the name of Mary. 
The first question that comes to mind is:  Why Nazareth?   Nazareth was located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee.  It was not known as having any Jewish spiritual significance.  If the Messiah was to be from the tribe of Judah and lineage of David, why not have him born in Judea?  Why would God bypass Jerusalem, the place of the Temple, ignoring the seat of worship?  Nazareth was not on any major highway and was so unpopular that Nathaniel said in his response to Philip, “can anything good come out of Nazareth.”  (John 1:46)
By bypassing royalty, splendor, religiosity, and choosing a common, run-of-the mill town, God was showing that Jesus came for the ordinary – common people. 
The second question is: Why Mary?  Mary was already betrothed to Joseph, a local carpenter.  She was not a person of position, wealth, or culture.  The situation was further complicated by the fact that she was a virgin. 
Luke 1:26-27 says, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”  (NASB)
A betrothal was not something to be taken lightly.  Most Jewish girls were married by the time they were 15.  Mary was likely 14 or 15 when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.  Can you imagine God placing his divine son in the hands of an inexperienced mother? 
Think of the humiliation and shame if Joseph chose to publicly divorce the young maiden.  It was vital that the marriage be consummated in order to legitimize the child’s birth and inheritance. 
Mary’s response to Gabriel revealed her faith, humility, character, and courage.  Her youth and inexperience did not get in the way of God’s plan.  I’m sure Mary must have wondered – how can I become pregnant not knowing a man!  In order to ease Mary’s doubts and fears the angel said to her, “Nothing shall be impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:37)
This is a statement that calls for faith in action.  How many times have you faced obstacles that seemed impossible to overcome, but through faith and perseverance victory came?  God’s timing is always perfect – we need patience to wait for it. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to pay homage to your son, the Lord Jesus Christ as we celebrate his birthday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Feed My Sheep

Scripture Reading: John 21:15-25
After breakfast Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. (John 21:15 NLT)
What do we know about sheep? Sheep are among the dumbest of all creatures. Most animals will survive if left to wander alone in the wilderness. Not sheep! Sheep are notorious for wandering off and getting lost. They seem to have no sense of direction. The old saying, “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” applies to sheep. Sheep have no survival skills. They cannot defend themselves and are not swift of foot. They are totally dependent upon the shepherd—just like we are. The prophet Isaiah says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa. 53:6).
     Both the Old and New Testaments refer to Jesus as the shepherd of the sheep. The Psalmist said, “Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps. 100:3 NLT) while in Matthew 9:36 Jesus expresses his great love and compassion for his sheep, “Seeing the people, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” The Apostle John in his great chapter on the shepherd and sheep says, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock he walks ahead of them, and they follow him, because they recognize his voice.” (Jn 10:3-4 NLT)
     After his resurrection, Jesus confronted a despondent Peter and said to him three times, “Peter, feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). What was he trying to show Peter? I believe Jesus’ words to Peter were designed to convince the apostle that he was not damaged goods. In these words of encouragement Jesus was saying to Peter, “Your failure has not changed our relationship—you are still a vital part of my family.”
     A number of years ago while serving on a lay renewal team I ran across a fellow believer who considered himself a total failure. I remember him saying, “I’m as far down on the ladder as any man can get.” Like Peter, he felt defeated and useless. Nothing was going right for him. His family was a shambles. He needed to hear the words that Jesus spoke to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
     Jesus offers the same words to you and me when we fail; “Take care of my sheep.” It’s never too late to make a fresh start. Yesterday is gone forever; today is a new day with the Lord.

Prayer: Dear Lord, use me today to help feed a sheep who is lost in sin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

God is on our Side

Scripture Reading: 2 Chronicles 32:1-8
Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are just men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us! (2 Ch. 32:7-8 NLT)
If there were ever a day when believers in Jesus Christ need to heed the words of King Hezekiah, it is today. Christians are being hunted down and murdered like a pack of wolves on a scent, and the world leaders, including those in so-called “evangelical churches” don’t care. Hundreds and thousands have been killed by Islamic extremists and those with the liberal mainstream media don’t raise an outcry against it, as if to say, “it deserves them right.”
     What is alarming in our present day culture is the increasing antagonism against Christianity. Elwood McQuaid in his book “Persecuted” (Harvest House 2003, p62) says, “In major areas of the American Culture orthodox religion and evangelical Christians are identified as a pox on the life of the people of the United States.”
     According to Mr. McQuaid, we are living in a society where every “religion, cult, jungle paganist, and God-denying element is equally credible and acceptable in their own right.”
     What does the future hold for Christians who believe and follow the dictates of the Great Commission to evangelize the world? Will missions cease to exist? Will the land be purged of believers? Will persecution become open and rampant in America? Will “zero tolerance” laws be enacted?
     American Christians have been spared for centuries the kind of persecution we are seeing in other parts of the world. We have come to believe that the freedom, peace, and security we have enjoyed for centuries is a guaranteed permanent possession. But as people in other lands have learned, much to their dismay, it can be taken away.
     That is exactly what King Sennacherib was trying to do the inhabitants of Judah. He threatened them with annihilation, but King Hezekiah encouraged the people by saying, “Don’t be afraid of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side!”
     If and when dark threatening clouds appear over America and the Christian community, let us hold fast to this Biblical truth, “we have a greater power on our side! He is the God of heaven who will fight our battles for us.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, strengthen our faith so that we might be able to stand when the going gets tough. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Time for Celebration

Scripture Reading: 2 Chronicles 30:10-27
So the people of Israel who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy. Each day the Levites and priests sang to the Lord with all their strength. (2 Chron. 30:21 NLT)
What a difference the Scriptures give of the celebration of the Passover compared to the mood in most churches during the observance of the Lord’s Supper. We sing heartily during the opening ceremonies then dig out our somber masks and put them on when the Lord’s Supper is observed. It’s like we walked from a festival of joy into a funeral.
     Strangely enough, the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper at the end of a “love feast.” It was viewed as a happy, joyful occasion for both the church family and friends. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament was equivalent to the celebration of the Jewish Passover in the Old Testament. After all, both the Passover and the Lord’s Supper are reminders of the salvation and freedom that comes through the shedding of the innocent blood of a lamb.
     While it’s true that the people in the Corinthian church went overboard and turned the “love feast” into a shameful orgy thus sinning against the Lord; the Apostle Paul dealt harshly with their sin and set the “house in order.”
     The passage in 2 Chronicle 30 describes a party like atmosphere during the celebration of the Passover festival. King Hezekiah sought to honor God with instruments and song. The Scripture says, “The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, including the priests, the Levites, all who came from the land of Israel, the foreigners who came to the festival, and all those who live in Judah.” (2 Chronicles 30:25 NLT)
     Pictures drawn of Jesus while hanging on the cross show him as torn, bleeding, and bedraggled. His human body was marred beyond recognition, and he is shown as a defeated foe at the mercy of the crowd. Nothing could be further from the truth. Never at any time was Jesus not in full control of his destiny and held our destiny in his hands as well. We are assured of this by the words recorded in Hebrews 12:2, “He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward.” (NLT) In addition, the seven words spoken from the cross reveal that he was in charge of the situation.
     How do you celebrate the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper? Are you joyful or sad? Do you see it as a celebration or a funeral? I believe we should rejoice knowing that Jesus willingly laid down his life so that we might enjoy eternal life with him in heaven.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you gave up your Son so that I might rejoice in his victory over sin.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Firm Foundation

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
…like a wise master builder I laid a firm foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. (1 Cor. 3:10)
The Church’s One Foundation
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord                                                                  She is His new creation By water and the Word                                                                         From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride;                                                       With His own blood he bought her, and for her life He died.
     The Apostles were diligent to establish a firm foundation for the New Testament church. They knew the chief cornerstone had to be the Lord Jesus Christ or else the foundation would collapse. Peter, quoting from Isaiah 28:16 said, “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in him will not be disappointed.”
     This reminds me of a past building project. At age fifty-one, along with my wife who was forty-eight, we built our first house. We dug footings deep into the Missouri subsoil. After the concrete walls were poured, we added six inches of rock before pouring the basement floor. In Missouri, a firm foundation helps to prevent slippage and sliding when the heavy rains turn the clay into liquid mud.
     The same principle needs to be applied to the Christian life. Unless our lives are securely grounded in the word of God, the temptations of life, the attacks of the evil one, the struggles of daily living, and the pressures of our worldly culture will erode the foundation and cause us to fall. That’s why it is important to “Let Jesus Start Your Day” (Found on,
     The disciples saw the need for this when they said in Acts 6:2-3, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.”
     What better advice could a follower of Jesus Christ adhere to? We have the “sword of the Spirit,” Paul says, “which is the word of God.” As the songwriter wrote so long ago, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord.”
     Do you have a solid foundation? Have you made Jesus Christ your chief cornerstone? Make Jesus the object of your devotion today and every day.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me establish your word as the foundation stone of my life.